Is the photographer a historian or a storyteller? Why can’t they be both? History is telling stories. Well, stories that are supposed to be factually based. But the facts are always picked by someone – famously the victor. And then the facts are made into a story. That story gets repeated over and over, changing slightly with each iteration until the people that were involved in the original event might well not recognise themselves. A storyteller uses facts to make up something different deliberately. But any good story, one that is worth reading holds a kernel of truth. It has come from something the writer sees to be true. It might even be a history, a story of a journey. The most important thing is being honest. You do not need to be explicit with the reader, but you should not tell lies. Is it history (a straight factual documentation of an event)? If so, it should be as accurate as possible – but even then, your own interpretation and views will colour it. Is it a straight factual piece, a half-way house, your feelings on something? That is fine – as long as you do not pretend otherwise. Is it a complete fiction? Also fine, fiction can tell as deep a truth about an event as fact.
Where do I sit? I think that straight factual telling of an event is easier. It, usually, takes less of a personal emotional toll on the photographer. When I look at photobooks the ones that grab my attention, the ones that I want to emulate have a fictional component. The images tell a story. Do not get me wrong – I like straight documentary too.
Can I make a story? You need the ideas first. Can I take some documentary images I have taken and use them to form the start of a story? Can I blend fact with fiction? My personal history with events in the world? I certainly do not just want to be a documentary photographer. Even with the subjects I know best and am most interested in. It is the storytelling aspect that holds me. The subtle changes that include the emotion. This is a topic I need to explore.
Where is this? What is happening? What does the storm portend? Whose house? There is not anyone there – but that leaves it open. What is next?