Why street photos should tell stories

Street photographs are a bunch nowadays. Some are good, some are bad. A big, big some are forgotten, the little, little, little some stays in our mind, so much so that we like to see them again, just like how we re-watch a movie, much like how we like to remember our past. Most of the time the Photos that we remember are the ones that told a story. The one that got the idea across. It could be argued that  a single photo cannot tell a narrative. A single photo is an event, and it is not what had happened , but it is what can be narrated. Narratives connects events and therefore a photo is a slice of a narrative.


So why should Street Photographs Tell Stories? Today I can think of five reasons.

1. We see them everyday. Therefore they are boring enough to solicit our attention unless you have another way of presenting them not just differently but engaging enough to glue your viewers to see them in a novel way. True enough, photos loses its novelty when successful photos are copied excessively. Be inspired but do not plagiarize. Learn to shoot everyday scenes according to your unique vision. Our Street Photography is the story of our lives.


2. Storytelling allows the viewers and the photographer have a relationship. By shooting captivating anecdotal scenes that people, your viewers can relate to, pulls them in to the image and allows them to understand your photo. This helps gets the message across, because most of the time, the inability of the photograph to literally speak creates a myriad of interpretation. We cannot help that. Even in vocal conversations there is misinterpretation. What is important here is you attracted and engaged a viewer to a story you told.
Ming Thein in his “Photography and Psychology: It’s All a Mind Game” The Huffington Post (3 Dec 2013) article cites : “photography is fundamentally a relationship between the photographer and the viewer. Nothing more, nothing less. At its core, a successful image is about communication: it must tell the viewer the photographers’ intended story, through an entirely and solely visual means of communication.
Read more at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ming-thein/photography-and-psychology-part-1_b_4380400.html


3. Story-telling Photos appeals to good sense and targets the emotions of viewers makes your photo memorable. We should shoot the “How, What and Who”.  If you want to convert viewers to kind or way of delivering your message, or your image itself, photos must encapsulate the how the mood was or the what feeling was, who was relevant then, when the photo was taken, that entire street shooting experience. That includes having a dominant foreground, informational background, details and close-up of objects or persons.  If you shoot Emotions you shoot Life, you have Associations, you have Impact.

According to a recent study made by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory-“In general, images with people in them are the most memorable, followed by images of human-scale space — such as the produce aisle of a grocery store — and close-ups of objects. Least memorable are natural landscapes, although those can be memorable if they feature an unexpected element, such as shrubbery trimmed into an unusual shape.”
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2011-05-image-tend-pictures-people-wide.html#jCp


4. Stories make them smell the street. Unlike landscape photography that records what is there, or Portrait photography that aims to depict who is it, Street photography is shooting what is like to be there. The limitation of a photograph is that it cannot tell the smell of a noodle shops, or the sound of a crowded bar, the feel touching the texture of a wall. That is why we need to be creative in every frame we shoot. Storytelling bridges this gap.

Bruce Gilden said it best in Vice.com interview: “To me, street photography is where you can smell the street, feel the dirt. Maybe that’s a bit of an unfair definition, but that’s what I feel.”

Read more at : http://www.vice.com/read/bruce-gilden-is-comfortable-taking-photos-of-strangers


5. More importantly: Stories Trigger Actions. Inspire. Influence. Your images that illustrate scenarios works for you.

Can we shoot now?

Next: How to Create Photos that Tell Stories. 

6 thoughts on “Why street photos should tell stories

    • Thank you for the comment my friend Ed.
      Yes. Those with strong forms may look good, and may not say anything. But if you read the photo itself, though the photographer may say that it was never an intent to tell a story, a photo which is inherently a medium- communicated or conveys something to the senses. It told a Story- an account imaginary or real.

  1. a good street photograph can tell a story but it doesn’t have to be a complete one…effective street photographs leave a space for the viewers to think, ponder, concoct or imagine their own conclusions or narratives.

  2. I wish I could agree on this but, it seems that you have created another block to try to break down. Saying any one way is right is wrong. We all have the right to see and feel and produce what we want without inhibitions.
    So, saying that photos must have a story behind them is inhibiting to all.

    Besides, no photo ever made is a story without the viewer’s attention. Just like an author. If you write a masterpiece and no one reads it, is it still a masterpiece. I rather think and feel that photos are a story but only the story of the shooters presence in the here and now. That evidence becomes alive when a viewer gazes upon the image and sees and feels the experience of the photo, and is a story of the moment with or without our intent.
    Be blessed all and do it your way, regardless what others including me say.

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