I used to hate those words. Visual Narrative. Those two words would often strike immediate contempt from me. I realize contempt is a pretty strong word, but nonetheless accurate. My pulse use spike whenever I heard it spoken in the context of photography. To me, at the time, it was “artist speak.” A language used by the aristocratic institutional artist as a way of distinguishing themselves from the populace. It was a phrase distinguishing the high minded from the simple-minded. It was way to separating valuable intellectualize photographs from what they would consider trivial photographs. I learned photography as a tradecraft as many do. I worked very hard, I was very practiced, I took pride in my meticulous approach, and after some formal training, photography became my profession. So, I resented the words, visual narrative, because I found they were used most often by people of low technical skill to dignify their work while simultaneously demeaning others. It wasn't until I saw a Ted Talk stream of David Griffin many years ago, that I realized I was only hearing the words from the wrong people.
David Griffin was the Director of Photography at National Geographic when he presented for TED Talks. The focus of his presentation was the topic of creating a visual narrative, or rather the phrase David Griffin made clear to me, “the storytelling power of photography.” David Griffin illustrates by using the works of some of the greatest photographic journalist to work for National Geographic, including Michael Nichols who's photographs tell a story of animals in the most human way. Numerous works of other photographers including Richard Wurman’s work on rural-urban environments; Brian Skerry, and Randy Olson work on the devastation of overfishing. It was great storytellers that I learned the true meaning of a visual narrative, the power of photography for positive change, and how it connects us.
To check out David Griffin's TED Talk stream, click below.