Case Study – Telling a story

You may have noticed an embedded book on the Your book? page called “Yosemite”. It is the story about a journey I took to California with my eldest daughter, and we both took many photos while we were there. We were so impressed with what we saw that we wanted to capture it all to enjoy again later, rather than taking the photos with any project in mind. From seeing friends’ Facebook feeds, I know many people do the same thing when they travel!

As I was thinking about what I was deciding what to share on this site, I remembered the many photos we had taken, and looked through them. A year on, and it was wonderful to see the photos and relive the memories of our time driving around Yosemite, and soon noticed that although we had both taken our photos in much the same locations, our pictures told the story from very different perspectives.

My daughter is a geologist. She loves rock formations, and is never happier than when explaining how any particular rock or mountain came to be. It was her desire to see the rocks in Yosemite that drove the plan to visit. Her photos are very crisp, scientific documents of the varieties of rock she saw when we stopped. There are often long shots and then close ups to give the context for what she captured. Any people in the photos are purely there by coincidence, these photos were never intended to tell the story of our journey around Yosemite.

My first thought when I heard that we were going to Yosemite was that it would be exciting to see the same places Ansel Adams had photographed, and how much they might have changed. I was eager to see the facets of the park that were beautiful and awing. My photos were of tree formations, plants, waterfalls, people, closeups of textures that appealed to me. My photos showed the park from an artist’s eye, capturing the story of the sensations and beauty I saw.

I had planned to create the book as a gift for my daughter, to tell the story of our trip. It was only when I tried to use both our photos to do so, that I realized that they told two stories. It was fascinating to mix and match the two perspectives, while still holding the chronological trip as the underlying story. It was also a great object lesson in seeing that photos are not only a static record of a scene, but also tell the story that the photographer has running through their mind. It is difficult to separate the perspective of the photographer from the photo.

When you come to tell your story, the photos you choose will also influence the story you ultimately tell. I think there is something hardwired in our brains that even when confronted with a series of images, we have to make story out of them. We can’t simply see them as images that can be arranged in a random pattern. What photos do you have, either collecting dust in a physical album, or buried on a computer hard drive that have a story to tell? Perhaps you could create a book from them?