The Art of Photography:Mike Mudd's Learning Log

The Art of Photography:Mike Mudd's Learning Log

Narrative & Illustration: A Narrative picture essay

Module ExercisesPosted by Mike Mon, May 13, 2013 10:48:44

Exercise: A Narrative Picture Essay

This project required an assignment to be elected by the student and then photographed as a story telling sequence.

This story is quite a personal one. My wife’s father recently passed away, his passing was quite sudden and certainly a shock to the family, especially as Terry was such a fit and healthy man despite his elder years.

Here is the essay of images:

Here is a link to my Google library link of the content - Last trip up the mountain which can be viewed as a slide show, and additionally I have included a embedded sequence from my flickr account which is truncated at the end.

Both Elsie and Terry were keen walkers, having navigated many coastal paths, woodland walks and mountain passes during their life together. His final wish was understandable; to have his ashes scattered on a mountain top in the Lake District, one of their favourite walking locations in the UK. Elsie, his wife, wanted this to be a family occasion, and so she set about selecting a mountain that all the family including two children of 10 and 12 could ascend safely. For this ascent, Cat Bells (451m) viewable from the town of Keswick was chosen.

Wikipedia describes the validity of Elsie’ selection very well:

“ Its distinctive shape catches the attention of many visitors to the Lakes who feel compelled to climb to the summit after seeing it from the viewpoint of Friars Crag on the opposite side of Derwent Water. Renowned Lake District writer and walker Alfred Wainwright acknowledges the popularity of Catbells among fellwalkers of all ability by saying:

"It is one of the great favourites, a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together, a place beloved. Its popularity is well deserved, its shapely topknott attracts the eye offering a steep but obviously simple scramble."”

As well as photographing this project for my submission for the OCA exercise, I also wanted to provide the family with a record, which although maybe a little raw to view in the immediacy, it may prove to be a valid personal record for the family in later years.

Photographically, my intention was to capture a relatively candid picture record, as a series of snapshots – as though the family had recorded this content themselves. From selecting this methodology I intended to provide a comfortable set of images for the family to view and to provide the least hindrance to their experience by not forcing any elected or formal compositions and poses from the family, hindering their journey at such a personal time.

The final set I have produced for the family includes over 50 images, which I have edited down to a lesser quantity (18) for this exercise; on this point I understand that the requirement was for a set of 15, but on edit I found I could not reduce this quantity down without affecting the fluidity of the viewers progression through the essay. The battle in this editing process was in the reducing of these images down to a lesser number and maintaining a readable continuous and contiguous story. Additionally there was the issue of story quality and flow versus the inclusion of what I subjectively deemed individual ‘good pictures’ which illustrated either the general family dynamic, their progression through the story and/ or a sense of time and place – fixing the sequence into a recognisable space and time for the viewer.

The weather conditions during the ascent and descent were quite harsh – so a single DSLR was used with a single lens selection of focal length 28-100 – reducing the need to change lenses during the shoot in such poor weather. Additional to the use of DSLR I used a Sony Xperia Z phone camera – this was employed for a number of reasons; in terms of practicality firstly the camera is waterproof and secondly it can take a submittable good record image in general light conditions (i.e. daytime), In terms of photographic studies I added the phone camera to aid my record of the family, especially the children and their expectation of being photographed. The casual and ubiquitous nature of mobile phone camera photography allowed for some relatively personal recordings with a lack of formality and forced solemnity and thus candid and relaxed scenes of the family were recorded as they move through and beyond this milestone in their personal shared history. Through death there is life and I purposefully did not wish to record an overly sombre Victorian record, but a more real reflection of the day.

. In terms of image selection and maintaining the viewers interest I pressed to use a full range of focal lengths of the 28-100 beer can lens in use, portrait and landscape framing was employed and a mix of candid and more formal picturesque image selection was used.

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