Developing a Narrative

Jo-Ana: the diaries of an anorexic visually described in photographs.

This is the premise for my Final Major Project (FMP).

A series of 20 images, each one consisting of a still life of the food consumed by the participant at various stages of the illness, together with a corresponding piece of text extracted from the participant’s diary. Together the 20 images provide a complete narrative of the participant’s illness.

The project builds on previous work by examining an alternative relationship with food.

As a food photographer, my images are not ‘found’. Instead they are contrived. Subjects are photographed with a supporting cast of appropriate props.

Each image contains a story – but this is only one moment in time extracted from a much larger story, a story told by the body of work as a whole.

In order to tell this story, several elements have to be brought together successfully.

In previous projects (Cravings and Carousel) I have used an Excel spreadsheet as a shot list to aid with the development of images (in a similar way to a storyboard). It is a technique I am continuing to employ in the development of images for Jo-Ana.

Shot List Example_08May2018

Fig. 1: Screenshot of Shot List – Sustainable Prospects (December 2017)

Figure 1. shows the finalised shot list for the Carousel project. At this stage of the project, I am not prepared to release the shot list for Jo-Ana and this is for two reasons. Firstly, it is still a work in progress being researched, and secondly, I want to avoid diluting the impact of the final body of work as a result of advance releases.

Highly adaptable, the Excel shot list is an effective way of keeping track of both subjects and props during the asset acquisition phase of a project – especially when dealing with a number of suppliers. It is also an extremely practical way of assigning combinations of resources to an image. I find it helps the flow of photoshoots enormously.

In terms of visual storytelling, two books, Freeman’s The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Visual Narrative, and Eisner’s Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, have been extremely insightful, helping to take storytelling apart in order to identify and examine the constituent parts.

In summary, I think the combination of increasing my knowledge of the visual narrative through the use of appropriate texts, together with the structured yet adaptable means of developing a set of images provided by the shot list proved a seminal point in my photographic career which is observable if one compares the quality of images up to and including module two (pre-use) with the images of subsequent modules (current use).

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