Photography for Artists & Designers

Art & Design 265: Project


Project: Narrative Series

Week: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | Schedule


Goals & Concept


Images can tell a story or can represent a scene within a story.

Develop a series of images that tell a story over time, thus expressing a narrative with characters, locations, actions, and consequences that progress from one stage to another.
The narrative:  what visual artists successfully tell stories through imagery? 
(consider religious paintings; stained glass narratives; Giotto; Masaccio. Consider photo journalists. )

What contemporary image makers tell stories?

Why have modernist artists rejected, or at least questioned, narrative as a legitimate foundation for image-making?


Your Narrative:
Consider taking a parable or fable whose message, insight or moral is based on narrative development.  Devise a way to retell a version of that story using contemporary photographic imagery. You might tell the story through images of people, or through objects or through settings.

Explore narrative devices.
Make notes in your sketchbook or journal about image tactics for establishing a narrative.
Sketch and plan how you will tell your story using those tactics.
Sketch thumbnails of the compositions and tonal relations that you want to capture in your images.

Explore how you will create continuity throughout the series.
Consider how the current image might be related to the prior image and to the next image.
Consider how the story has changed in the current image — what it true now that wasn't true in the prior image? How might you make that change apparent to the viewer?

Consider your Impact Concept — how will you grab the viewer's attention and pull them into your narrative?
Include a description of your Impact Concept in your Artist's Statement with the final series.

Consider your Response Concept — how will you grab the viewer's attention and pull them into your narrative?
Include a description of your Impact Concept in your Artist's Statement with the final series.


The Short Version

Shoot a series of images (7+) that express a narrative sequence for G+ album: 007 Narrative Series.

Develop an expressive moral, message or point of view through the series.

Develop a consistent and evokative graphic concept, impact concept and response concept.

Lay out a composite image representing how you might present the series.


Explore what control you have as an imagemaker, rather than relying solely on evokative traits in the subject matter.
Use the play of light and shadow to establish patterns and to establish mood or attitude. Does the story benfit from bold contrast or from soft, subdued contrast? Does this scene express best as a low key image or through high key?
Should the lighting be hard and shadows sharp, or should light be diffuse and forms gently modeled?
What formal traits might you emphasize? Might you play with prominent textures... harsh highlights... subdued colors... a particular hue schem?

Some examples:
Example Set 1

Selecting a Narrative

One of your first challenges is to figure out what story you'd like to tell.
Stories are all around us. Some fictional. Some real. Many pretending to be real that are fictional.
Each of our lives is a story. Each day is a collection of stories.
Not all are interesting. But, when conceived well, many are.

Illustrating a Short Story:
Create a narrative series for a book or story you know. Create a story board of how you want to tell it and then plan the shots, shoot them, then edit them. 
Consider an Art Director or editor contacting you to provide a series of images for a short story or for a newspaper article. If the editor intends to print seven images with the story, what would you shoot?

Illustrating a recent News Event:
Could you take a fictional or illustrative approach to a recent news event? That is, as opposed to shooting the actual events, could you represent the events in a true-to-life drama?

A Day in the Life Series:
Imagine doing a photo-documentary of a day in the life of President Burks...or your favorite professor...whoever.
Follow a person for a day (or a few hours), with a camera. (well, tell them you're going to do that... and get their permission.)
Catch what events go on during the day and then choose which ones best develop a self-explanatory continuity; select images that tell the story of that day. If you sit down and plan beforehand, you might be able to show up for the important stuff and save you both time. 

Proposal Narrative:
If you know a guy who is planning on proposing soon, contact him and see if you can create a narrative series. Plan out a story board leading up to him proposing and shoot it. Then ask if you can become a paparazzi and try to catch the moment. 
After all, every real wedding album needs to include the proposal!


Expressive Theme: 

What might you be able to say through your images about the characters or subject?

Explore what you might want to say through your image.
Develop a concept statement about the message you'd like to convey.
Explore reasons for including the particular objects, settings or actions in your series of images.




— Review the basic operations of a digital SLR.
— Have a memory card prepped.
— Reset defaults on any borrowed camera.
— Image Format: RAW

What shooting mode will you use?
If I am concerned with depth of field, I'll likely prefer Aperture Priority Mode.
If I want to produce motion blur, or be sure to avoid it, I may prefer Shutter Speed Priority Mode.
You could shoot this set on full auto (P) or manual (M).

You might turn on Auto-ISO Sensitivity.

Focussing: Auto or Manual?
If the images you concieve involve a very narrow DOF, you may want direct control over focus and so use Manual focus. You might also use the Focus Lock technique to tell the camera what forms to auto-focus on. This is easier if you're shooting hand-held rather than on tripod.
Camera Manual PDFs:          D7000 Manual — p. 97      |        D90 Manual — p. 57


Conceive and plan the shots you will take.

Shoot roughly 100+ images.  



— The general steps will likely be the same you've followed in other set. The particulars will vary according to your concept for this series.

— Upload to Google+ into “007 Narrative Series” folder.  Drag those into your Art 265 circle.

— Describe the traits that unify this set of images.  Write a (50-125 words) concept statement that describes the content that you are aiming to express about, or through your collection. Describe, also, the visual forms or compositional tactics that your set of images emphasizes.

— Review and comment* on the photos uploaded by at least 7 other students before class.
* Provide relevant comments (25+ more words) discussing what you see in the photos presented — comment particularly on what impresses you or what catches your eye.  Comment on what you think might improve the power and clarity of the narrative of the presented photos.


By Tuesday, 8am

Shoot at least 50 images.
Select (at least) 20 of those for editing.
Select 7+ of those for G+ presentation as a theme-unified series.

Downsize images to 2Mpix JPGs before upload.

Post to G+ :
Project Photo Album: 007_Narrative Series (7+ image plus composite)

Write an artists statement for the final series.
— Discuss whatever theme or emphases you discovered. You might describe what you found as you surveyed your images in Bridge. What surprised you? How did your direction change as you went?

Write critical comments about the final series images:
— Discuss the strengths of the final images in relation to that theme.


Thursday, before Class

Crit your Peers:
Go to G+ and review what your classmates have uploaded.

For each classmate, go to their 007 Narrative Series album.

Add comments to at least one image, or to the series as a whole.
Discuss ways in which the series is formally unified — what traits tie the separate images together?
How compositionally successful are the images?
What is interesting about them?



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Greg Clayton
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