In today’s post, I’d like to share a photograph that I took just yesterday and that I happen to like very much for its storytelling properties.
Despite it being not exactly spectacular at first glance, I still like it for various reasons. Here they are.
Simplicity always works. There is no question what this photo is all about. If the subject matter in itself is interesting to look at, additional elements more often than not are mere distractions. This image has none, and this is a good thing.
2. Ordering principle
While it can quickly result in boring images, it usually helps to apply an ordering principle, also known as rules of composition, e.g., the rule of thirds.
In this particular photograph, I composed the picture to let the lines in the frame create as many triangles as possible. I count four triangles here, three real ones (1-3), and one that I would like to call “implied triangle” (4).
The latter, strictly speaking, is not an actual triangle, but the shape resembles a triangle enough to imply the idea of a triangle in the viewer’s mind. Well, that is, at least in my mind. Your mileage might vary, of course. Please let me know in the comments what you think about this point.
3. The simultaneity of the nonsimultaneous – or: the power of storytelling
When I said above that in a simple image, the subject matter has to be interesting, you might have asked yourself what is so interesting about an old power pylon. Interestingness, I have to admit, lies as much in the eye (and mind) of the beholder as in the subject matter itself. And this photograph is a perfect example. I live in a large metropolitan area in western Germany. Here, power pylons are usually larger and made of metal. Most of the time, power and phone lines get to the houses underground on the last meters. Therefore, a simple wooden post with open cables is a rare thing. Coming from my context, the wooden texture of the pole is interesting in itself. Furthermore, this pole conveys the story of a simpler world long past, when everyday things like power supply were more transparent and less obscured.
However, wooden power pylons and open cables might be more common in rural areas. I know for a fact that they are pretty much standard in the rural areas of the UK. So, viewers from those areas might not see anything interesting or noteworthy in this picture at all.
Nonetheless, I think that the aspect of storytelling is the most important aspect of impact in photography.
4. Beauty in imperfection
With most photographs today being pin-sharp, HDR perfect, and with brilliant colors, I am aware that this photo falls out of line a bit. However, I did it on purpose. For one reason, it fits the idea of age and old times that I discussed above. For another, I have always felt that striving for visual perfection more often than not creates a certain visual uniformity that can get quite boring over time. Whereas visual perfection speaks to the eye, less-perfect photographs have a particular way of speaking to the soul that technically perfect images can never achieve. In this image, I added these “imperfections” intentionally. They come in the shape of a distinct grain and slightly washed-out blacks and whites. It would be easy to undo these “issues,” but then I couldn’t feel the image anymore. It would cease to convey meaning. This is what I mean by “beauty in imperfection.”
5. It makes for a nice print
Keith Cooper from Northlight Images once said in one of his YouTube videos about printing photographs that the print on your hands is the photograph completed. I couldn’t agree more. But, even more, I find that the right paper can support the story (or meaning or message or… you name it) of the photograph in a subtle and yet profound way. In this instance, I could not imagine this photo on glossy paper as it would feel way too modern and polished for the story it conveys. So, I chose Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308, a matt paper with a subtle but distinct structure, which supports the impact of the grain quite nicely.
So, what do you think about this image? Does it speak to you? Do you like it, or do you find it trivial? And is storytelling an important aspect of your photography? Feel free to express your feelings in the comments.
Sometimes the story is not obvious so I throw in an obscure quote. It may not be the story of the photo but it gives you something to think about. I used to work with a Pole but he was not as interesting as yours. 😉