June 13, 2016

The Narrative Process

Education - Photographers

When it comes to wedding photography, a term you’ll hear heaps of is Storytelling. It’s a pretty word; it conjures up something nostalgic and surreal. It breathes life into revery and brings to mind a notion of grandeur that borders on sublime.

But it’s bullshit.



The narrative process of telling a story is so far removed from wedding photography, that it’s a wonder to me how we really came to use the term in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, though: I use the terms Stories and Storytelling as a descriptor of my work, but I think there is a stark difference in both form and function.
Truthfully, if you think critically about it, it’s easy to realize that the use of the word Story without any alternate descriptors is simply a lazy use of the word and shows a lack of intentionality and direction in the creative process. In order to communicate a good story, there is an essential need to focus on some of the core elements of Story: Theme, Plot, Setting, Characters, Conflict, and Resolution.

From first glance, it should be apparent that some of the key elements of Storytelling, in the context of weddings, exposes a dull plot overall. The Plot overall is basically the same from wedding-to-wedding. Hopefully, no conflict emerges on the wedding day among the Characters. And finally, the resolution (first kiss, marriage, etc.) are all pretty…expected.

In this context, there is really very little to keep an audience engaged and very little correlation to traditional Storytelling. And yet we continue to use the word aimlessly, without intentional substance or explanation.

It’s at this intersection—where Tradition and Medium meet–where I think the real narrative process begins to unfold. Since you can’t rely on traditional narrative tropes, there needs to be something sui generis.

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Something I communicate to my clients is that, while of course their own personal History and Story are unique, in the context of weddings, the narrative process, if left unamended, is found to be wanting.

In lieu of this, there needs to be something substituted in place of things like plot, conflict, and resolution. There are three things I rely on to build stories and to try to create something unique.

1.  People – The Couple themselves, as well as the people that surround them, are entirely unique with their own way of seeing the world and with their own Story. My goal in photographing weddings is to work to expose the unseen workings and nuances of my Couples.

2. Location – While not every weddings needs to (or even should) be in an epic location, the location of the wedding itself tends to play into how the story unfolds. Having a unique or meaningful place greatly impacts and affects how the couple interacts with each other and how the experience unfolds for both them as well as their guests.

3. Light – Each day and setting is unique, and that ultimately means that the light for every wedding is also unique. My goal is to use both setting and light as equal Characters in their story. While the People and the Location impact the intimacy of a wedding; the Light is a layer that can transcend everything and evoke an entirely new way of feeling about the wedding.

My goal is to showcase every wedding I photograph in a way that makes me feel.

Throughout my life, the books and movies that I most resonate with are the ones that make me think and that evoke an emotional response from me. (I’m not shy to admit, I’ve cried during many films.) When photographing weddings, my goal is to connect with my couples emotionally so that I can create a final product that reaches through the wall of externality and that razes their emotions.

I want to create images that are part of a Story. I want to create images that make you feel something.

My critique of the word Storytelling is not so because we revere it too much, but rather because we revere it too little and we don’t pursuit the Art of Storytelling with as much fervor and intentionality as it deserves.

Let’s tell better stories.