I Just Want to Tell a Story

I keep thinking about cool stories to tell in photos: the folks living in shacks behind my apartment and what their lives are like, the life and belief of a typical Thai Buddhist, or any number of other story ideas. I envy photojournalists, whether they are given assignments or have the accomplished privilege of choosing their own projects, because they get to tell stories for living: meeting people, grapling with the issues of a given situation, and trying to portray that story in photos. SOOO cool! So, I have to wonder if it is possible to tell my own stories if it is not my job to do so.

I am going out on a limb this time. One, I really have no idea where this post will end up…I have just started and am hoping for the best. And two, there may not be anybody out there who feels the same way. So, I might be talking to the wind, but if for nobody else, I think it will be good for me.

Surely, telling my own stories is possible. My gut feeling is I should not have to be a professional or get paid to do so or even have a huge amount of spare time. I just have not figured it out yet.

I think the thorn in my photographer’s flesh is that I feel like I am constantly just taking one shot here and one shot there. That is great and helps me grow as a photographer, but I so rarely get a chance to piece together a story. Multiple shots with something to say.

My first thought is that I get the honor of telling the stories of everyday life for my children. So, yes, I do have some stories that are readily accessible. I genuinely feel sorry for my kids when they try to make one of those cutesy slideshows at the wedding, because they are going to have thousands and thousands of photos. However, capturing the loves, joys, growth, and so on, of the children is capturing a story. It is just a very long term story.

What about other stories? Some of those that I mentioned above and some others I have thought up, really are conceivable. So, why do they not get told? Well, it does take time, but I could pick stories that are doable…as Bob would say, “baby steps” to storying. Maybe I just need to pick something and work it through, even if it takes weeks to put together enough material to tell a simple story.

Now that I think of it, my old trump card might come into play again: I live here. Photojournalists are in and out, lots of traveling, days of prep so they do not waste time once on location, and all that. Me? Well, I live in storyland; the stories I want to tell are all around me. So, I have the advantage of being able to work on it some, adjust, take a different route, and basically just take my time. Of course, I could get so side tracked that I have no coherent story in the end, but for the most part, this is still my trump card.

So, there we have it. It is no grand revelation, but if I just pick a story close by, close relationally or close geographically, and just decide to do it, it is still totally possible. I will not be covering AIDS in Asia or anything so grand, but I can tell the stories of the folks that live behind my building in shacks built over a smelly canal. I am just getting sick of picture after picture of isolated stories; it is like reading one chapter of a book.

Anybody else interested in storying with photos?

Cooper Strange Written by: