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Photography in the mirror – DS106

June 10, 2012

 “…the act and process of being deliberately thoughtful about what you are seeing. To see what you are looking at.”

D’Arcy Norman on Mindful Seeing

That was a powerful lesson at the beginning of this week at DS106 the digital storytelling course.  The concept of mindful seeing seems to me to be at the heart of storytelling through photography. It’s okay to record what you see, that’s a noble endeavour, but a more creative one is to tell the story of what happened before and after a particular view, so you are not just looking but also seeing and understanding and explaining.

I am a great ‘recorder’ of events: I love the family snapshot with the birthday candles, the cheesy photo of friends celebrating or the reportage style of photography. But armed with my trusty Canon Powershot SX210 I’ve tried this week to be more of a storyteller as I point and click.  Each of the photos below was taken for a Daily Create challenge – where participants are asked to respond to a particular mini brief, within 24 hours.

Yesterday, we were asked to take a photo of the oldest building near us, and then work to make the image appear older using filters in photo editing software.  Making the picture older tells a story about the age of the property – which I’ve hopefully achieved here in this shot of the 16th century farmhouse that still stands very near my house.

In visiting the property, which I found in an online directory of listed properties in Bristol, I met one of its new residents.  She told me all about the cooperative that have bought and live in this beautiful house – a lovely moment where a digital endeavour created a real life conversation.  She kindly let me in to the grounds take the shot from this all-encompassing angle.

Many of the resources we’ve been pointed to also talk about finding a new angle on a subject, which I tried to recall here.

Adding backgrounds and choosing to blur them (or not) helps to add a sense of depth, both physical and metaphorical, which also helps with storytelling. This photo was ‘something I was envious of’ and I entitled it “This is not Kefalonia”….

Guy Tal is quoted in Alan Levine’s presentation saying: “introduce an experience your viewers have never had before,” and I am conscious that some things I find normal might be abnormal for other people.  My experience of living in China was the inspiration behind this shot for today’s Daily Create that asked for a photo featuring rope or knots.

Another piece of advice I appreciated was to “Make photography part of your everyday workout!” I took this to heart and tried not to think of my office as an empty box,but as a potential source of comment, like in this photo which was for the ‘monochrome’ challenge:

I found the tips on how to be a better photographer here really illuminating – for example, keep your bad photos; squint to see the light differently.

Alongside all these Daily Creates which focus on the ‘old fashioned’ values of good photography, it’s been really stimulating to spend so much time on the digital tools and tricks I needed to master for the Visual Assignments.  A busy week, but definitely a satisfying one.

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