So we had several readings this week and I'll start with Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. We have moved beyond the 1st part of the book which she titled Writing and are now into the 2nd part which is The Writing Frame of Mind. The chapter was titled Looking Around and was a short read but pointed. I saw two main points.
First off - writing (in our case photographing) requires a sense of reverence. No big secret here, but Lamott points out that you have to see people as they really are, in the most compassionate way you can. Apparently Robert Stone said something like - writing involves seeing people suffer and finding some meaning therein.
Secondly - writing (and absolutely true of photography) requires a sense of wonder. "This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of - please forgive me - wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in our small, bordered worlds." (p. 100). Perfectly true of photography, and a great life guiding sentence.
Jay and Hurn discuss the Picture Essay in one of their chapters. They suggest 5-ish steps:
1. 1st Question - What is the purpose? This gives you focus. Decides for you where to point the camera
2. 2nd Question - How many pictures are required?
3. Plan the basic frame-work/structure. They point out not all research is cerebral - recommend scoping the place out - writing headings/themes, then going back and photographing these themes. Also helps you know when you are finished.
4. Then look at the shoot and see if there is enough visual variety.
5. You have to represent the subject matter as fairly as possible.
A finial thing to remember it what the camera does, if you let it: 1. Entrance-ticket - give you a reason/excuse to be there, 2. Clarifies what is going on - helps to make sense of the unknown, 3. Great way of passing on a new-found experience to others.
Chapnick discusses the history of photo essays in chapter 4 by walking though many of photography's great masters. The chapter begins by pointing out that for the 1st hundred years, photojournalism consisted of single photos seen as isolated images. This is such a strange concept. It is kind of hard to understand since nearly everything today is discussed in terms of the story.
Here's a list of some of the greats: Margaret Bourke-White, Leonard McCombe, W. Eugene Smith, Bill Eppridge, and Donna Ferrato. All have great images, but their stories are what made a name for them.
Chapnick also puts forward a list of 9 attributes that must be in the structure/thought behind the photographic essay. All are worthy of note, all are things that I need to think through as I am idea-gathering for my 30 day. Still kind of intimidated by this....