Colleen’s Photo Narrative






Woman Looking out of Car Window





Photo 1:

Photo 2:

Photo 3:
Personal photo taken by Caitlin Shipley.

Photo 4:

Photo 5:

Photo 6:

Photo 7:

Photo 8:

Photo 9:

Photo 10:

I want to keep my photographic essay as only images because I like the idea of it evoking a feeling rather than a specific a specific idea I want people to take away from it. I think everyone can find their own connection to it and I don’t want to tell my viewers what to see. I would compare that to showing someone a movie when they wanted to read the book first; you can’t spoil someone’s interpretation of the meaning before they even form one.

If anything, I think this most closely follows Muhr’s experiment where he asked different people to give his photos a caption. Some thought he was just trying to stereotype the individuals or poke fun at their simplemindedness but I think he was genuinely interested in hearing what they had to say.

Besides the one picture my sister took, I don’t really feel a connection to the photographers because their intention for shooting the pictures was much different than my intention for assembling all of them. When I was in the process of assembling them and then reviewing the final product, I felt like I was making something completely new, that the sum of the images was greater than all of its parts. For this reason, I feel more of a dialogue between the viewer and myself. Although they didn’t know it, there are some very personal experiences tied up in this narrative, so I feel like I’m being very vulnerable in publishing this. In the same way, there might be triggers that my classmates and teachers are feeling that I will never know. It’s like standing next to a friend while you look at the same piece of art. We’re both looking at the same thing but are experiencing it very differently.

I toyed with several themes in this narrative and I like that it made for different punctums for different people. The closed door meant the closing of one chapter of your life, but the potential of opening another. The rope, as Daune said, could be an umbilical cord. I thought of it as an anchor to know where you are securely rooted. For me, that is in my siblings. I had a kind of volatile upbringing, but they were my constants, often acting as the parents growing up. The specific idea of a rope came from a Bible verse that says, “a cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

Next is a picture my sister took of me looking out a window, thinking. I did this a lot when I was younger. Being the youngest of four I never had the chance to say much so I got really good at staring out the windows of our car or our house and just thinking. About the past, the future, people and events that didn’t exist yet. I thought this picture was very characteristic of the start of my journey from home to college.

The next picture of the crying bird is captivating; I can’t take my eyes off of it but it almost brings me to tears. It reminds me of one night a few days before I left for school when I just sat out on my front porch and cried in anticipation of the future. I couldn’t wait long enough to leave home and I knew it was the best thing for me but the uncertainty was scary. So the next two pictures show the obligatory tense car drive to college, as I look out the window to the potential of my future as an individual. Scott aptly described it when he said, “[I] take one last look at the place where [I] have lived for so long, then it is time to leave the nest.”

The next picture of birds flying from the trees illustrates as Kim called it “taking flight” or as Scott called it “migration.” This is the official leap of faith from security to the unknown. The picture following is just solid blue. I thought this was appropriate because it reminded me of song lyrics that go “dark blue, dark blue, have you ever been alone in a crowded room?” My first semester at college had a lot of highs and lows. To the point where I was eventually diagnosed with mild to moderate depression, general anxiety, social anxiety, and OCD. That semester was such a learning experience that has only made me stronger in my self and in my faith.

To show this, in my next picture I have a strong oak tree to show my ability to find my passion [the environment] and find myself in order to grow and thrive. However, oak trees must have equally firm roots in order to reach such great heights. I like how Kim noted “our past helped us to prepare for this moment, and we look to it for guidance, but there comes a point where we have to do some growing on our own.”

After this growing process, there is kind of a lag before the next photo. I searched everywhere for a picture to connect this idea of growing to having come out full circle on the other side. The reason I had so much trouble is because I don’t know what belongs there- only the next few years will tell. After that elusive point I will eventually reach the final photo and be able to look through the rearview mirror at the issues I once found so daunting through the front windshield. For this reason, I would agree with Barthes that each picture is a death of a certain phase of life or portion of the journey.

Reflection Paragraph(s):

I began this project wanting to examine what home meant for me since being at college. Every time I go back to my parents’ house it doesn’t feel quite the same and I feel awkward having to straddle two lives. I had a hard time making this struggle into concrete ideas and then an even harder time finding images for it. I don’t know what makes something “feel like home” and I had to accept that this awkward feeling wouldn’t be resolved through this assignment. I did, however, explore the journey from the end of my summer to the end of my first semester. Those three or four months encapsulated a lot of change and emotions and I wanted to make something that was very personal but also very accessible to most college freshmen. So I’m glad that Scott and Kim got the idea of what I envisioned for my narrative.

Looking at the finished product, I’m going to title my narrative “Such Great Heights” after the song by the Postal Service. I think all of my images relate to moving forward and moving up. The rope is the anchor or roots but beyond that my pictures are about driving forward in a car, taking flight, or growing taller as a tree. This is all to show the growth I went though last semester.


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5 Responses to Colleen’s Photo Narrative

  1. knkern94 says:

    Taking Flight

    Children are locked under the guardian eye of the parents until the absolute moment of leaving the nest. We “youngins” long for this day to come when we can take the first steps on our own and leave the life we knew as children far behind. Our past helped us to prepare for this moment, and we look to it for guidance, but there comes a point where we have to do some growing on our own.

    (i feel kinda cheesy creepy doing this. first attempt!)

  2. shjones says:

    Title: Migration

    Both the birds and the humans in the story are doing the same thing: migrating. One day it is time to leave their old home and they begin to pack up everything they need to leave. They take one last look at the place where they have lived for so long, then it is time to leave the nest. The transition is a long journey, it takes many days and nights and the travelers are scared. In the end though they arrive at there new home; it is beautiful.

  3. Sheila Jelen says:

    In your photo essay I see transition, journeys, comings and goings, growing and seeking. I found it beautiful. I was confused, however, about your use of the term operator in your page framing of the essay. Did you take these pictures? Are you the photographer? If not, do you consider yourself the operator or the editor? I don’t think the editor is an operator in the way that a photographer is.

    Also, it might be worth considering the death implicit in every photograph not simply as the death of the person in the photograph, but the death of the moment captured in the photograph, or the person as he or she was at the moment the photograph was taken.

  4. dauneobrien3 says:

    The rope reminds me of an umbilical cord—both binding and freeing. Perhaps your essay is exploring the struggle between being tied and locked within a world from which we long for freedom.

  5. Sheila Jelen says:

    Colleen — I appreciate your choosing not to include captions, although I was intrigued by your decision to explore each image in your write-up at the end. I also think it is interesting that you were focused on one specific event in your life — your first semester of college, leaving home, etc. and yet there is only one photograph of you in the essay. How is it that we come to be defined by photographs that do not include us? You strike a good balance between self-revelation and abstraction.

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