All photographs from National Geographic.
I’d title this “Man can only imitate.” The photos come in pairs – one in which the human interest dominates the scene and one in which nature dominates. The first pair includes one photo with a person in the forefront, with birds flying into the sunset ahead of him. The other is simply a spectacular sunset, with no humans needed to draw in interest. The next pair shows a man chasing a buffalo of some kind in one photo and a pair of buffalo-type mammals chasing each other in the other. In this way, this photo narrative explicitly compares how humans view nature and how nature views us.
I would title this narrative as “Freedom”
Each pictures seems to grasp the habitat or animal in its most free state. 34 Whether it ranges from plants growing without the hindrance of man kind or a man simply traversing across a winding path. It seems that this narrative seeks to show the relationship between all beings and how some finds pleasure in similar tasks. Each subject within the photographs has their own connectivity seen through their relationship with nature, the experience, or others around them.
I called your essay “Flight.” Your framing of it, in your reflection, is marvelous. Your decision to render it more complicated through repetition, and stripping its linearity, and you commitment to leaving some of the interpretation up to the spectator makes it a very beautiful and interesting project.
I did not want to add any text to my photographic narrative. I feel that text will always, to some degree or another, supplant the most basic, visceral idea that a photograph conveys. By their nature, photographs elicit different responses dependent on the viewer; I think this has been demonstrated well by the readings of this photo-essay as both a statement about the contrast between man and nature, and a comment on interconnectivity through acts of liberation. Personally, I put together these photographs with the thought of the simplest kind of story possible. All stories are, in essence, action, and I chose these specific pictures because I felt that they could, together, make up a story of movement. I thought that if textual stories could make use of imagery and metaphor and repetition to enhance their narrative composition, why can’t a photonarrative also use such devices in the structuring of a story? I imagined this story to be one of an individual that will go anywhere for love, with images that, in a non-literal way, would attest to this movement (it is not always evident with the size of the pictures here, but in each image is a left-to-right movement, except for the first two and the last two, with the very last one conveying movement in the opposite direction). This is what I had in mind, but this is not what I would say is necessarily the intended meaning of the photonarrative. Photographs will always be ambiguous and I do not think that a photographer (or “author” of a photographic narrative, as it were) can purport to hold a monopoly on meaning. Therefore, I purposely made this narrative as inchoate in absolute meaning as I could, and I am glad to see the variety of responses to it. I did give this photonarrative a title, but I felt that a title such as ‘Movement and Respite’ was still sufficiently vague enough that it did not inherently contradict or fight against a viewer’s perception of the images. Instead, I felt that this title could work for any of the viewer’s takes on this narrative: in terms of the two responses, it clearly delineates a contrast, but it also highlights the element of freedom and flight. (I think that this use of text is not contradictory to my overarching stance on text, because in a short title such as this, meaning is not forced and the text does not interrupt the purely photographic story, as it would with captions, nor does it retell the story in textual form, which I think would be reductive to the medium.) The only other change that I made to my photonarrative was to separate the images, each onto a new line. I had initially put the images in pairs by line as merely a space saving measure, but then I realized the potential for this to affect one’s reading of the photographs. I appreciate this reading and I wish I had thought of that too, but I decided to change this for the same reason that I did not want to add text: pairing the images seems to ultimately strip them of their standalone nature in one continued narrative just as text would interrupt and corrupt the meaning of what I feel is best left unclear. Photography can get away with ambiguity as few other forms can and I felt that this was important to demonstrate in the creation of a photographic narrative.
I appreciate all the narrative decisions you made here and your articulation of the different threads that emerge from this project, both in your own reading of it and in response to others’ readings. I wonder, however, to what extent you can attribute any of your many articulate thoughts to a dialogue with any of the theorists we have examined this semester?
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