On The Narrative Level of Photographs:
Photography most immediate quality is its ability to document reality objectively. Thisdocumentary (recording) aspect of photography is the one we are most used to inrelating to photography. Our instinct is to look at a photograph and assume that it isan accurate representation of the reality it portrays, it shows 'an overwhelmingconviction of fact' (Goin 2001). This is a linear/empiric mode of thought that is veryeasy to grasp. Is not an object reflected through the lens and recorded on the film,very similar to its original shape? Are not the results of capturing a scene into aphotograph predictable? In this perception of photography man is a man, a house isa house, and a street is a street. ' ..A photograph
seems to havea more innocent, and therefore more accurate, relation to visible reality than do othermimetic objects.' (Sontag 1977) Despite the medium's hundred and sixty years ofexistence this limited grasp of photography is still entrenched (Goin2001). WalterBenjamin in his seminal '
The Work of Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction'
talks about the desire of the masses to bring things 'closer' that is, to have areproduction of reality as valid as reality itself. This attitude towards photography wasexplained to me by one of my friends: "When I go to Greece and see a lovely scenein the market place, I want to bring it home with me by taking a photograph of it".The distinction between reality and photographic reality is easily observed. A comicalexample is the following anecdote about Picasso and perception of photography:Picasso was painting a portrait of a woman in the presence of her husband. After awhile he noticed that the husband was becoming agitated and asked about it. Thehusband responded that the painting did not look like his wife. Picasso then askedthe husband to tell him what does his wife looks like. The man took a photo out of hiswallet and said: "This is what my wife looks like." Picasso after carefully observingthe photograph commented, "Small, isn't she?" (Gross and Shapiro 2001) A more
encompassing view of photography is that '…photographs are as much an
interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are.' (Sontag 1977) '.. And thatour conventional consensus of reality is not the only version of reality'. (Gross andShapiro 2001)Photography less obvious quality is its narrative quality. The photographic narrativelike the literary narrative in many cases starts with a factual reality, 'inherent in themedium is its ability to represent both fact and fiction' (Goin 2001). It aim is toexplore, develop, and express aspects that lies beneath the surface. Photography inthat sense can be compared to literature. (Whereas documentary photography canbe compared to journalism) The work of Atget is the first concrete example ofphotography and narrative, even though I would like to mention here two remarkable