Elizabeth: Photography and Storytelling

©Eldridge Photograpy

©Eldridge Photography

I recently followed a link in my news feed that led me to a flickr blog that had a spotlight post about Ryan Brenizer. He is a New York photographer, named one of the Top-10 wedding photographers in the world by American Photo and Rangefinder magazines. The post showcased some of his work, which is spectacular.

Really, go take a look.

I’ll wait.

What I found interesting from the interview was how he took his passion for photography and a love of storytelling and applied them to wedding photography.

“I’ve always had a deep understanding of what storytelling means to me—of creating that feeling through a photo, or through a series of photos that, not only can you look at them and appreciate them, but that you can almost hear them.”

When I first started writing as a kid, I often used to get my inspiration from pictures. There was a line of greeting cards that had very pretty soft-focus, old-fashioned romantic images and I made up any number of poems and stories about the people portrayed on them. To me, the pictures really were worth a thousand words (more or less).

As writers, we tell our stories with words on the page, but there are many other creative ways to tell stories through different art forms. I use quilting, for example, to tell family stories using remnants of clothing and sometimes photos or other keepsakes. My favourite quilt is a simple block quilt I made when my son went off to college. It’s made up left-over blocks of fabric from his baby bedding and clothing, all backed with an old sheet from his teenage years that was faded and soft from years of washing.   Completed, the quilt holds the story of him growing up for me – a story that I can enjoy each time I use it.

When it comes to creative pursuits, Ryan had some good advice in his post. It was aimed at photographers but I think it is just as applicable to writers and worth repeating here.

The short answer is, don’t stop. I really think that the most important thing and the thing that separates people in general who become successful, and especially photographers, is don’t stop. From very early on, be a little selfish. The really important thing is don’t burn out. Do whatever it takes to create the conditions so that you won’t have to stop. Pay attention to what you procrastinate on, pay attention to the things that are keeping you up at night, that are taking the joy out of it, and do whatever you can do to keep the joy in it. Not only does this make your life better, but it will make you a better photographer in the long run.

So, do you have other creative ways of telling stories besides writing (or other story-telling mediums you enjoy besides books)?


12 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Photography and Storytelling

  1. LOL, Oh, honey, I’m going to be really terrible and provide a story for one of those: “A Mormon, a priest and a black man walk into a white tie gala . . . .”

    Seriously, those are great pictures — the man has a way with people. And light. And everything else you need to make great photos . . . . I especially love the one of his soon-to-be fiance. She is smiling and happy, and I can easily create the story that she’s very much in love, and this is the only place she wants to be, looking at the guy behind the camera.

    I do creative stuff, but I’m not sure if it tells a story. The big story I tell with crochet is how happy people are going to be when they get this little knick-knack or thing. (-: Needless to say, I frog or leave unfinished a lot of “stories” because they aren’t sticking to the narrative — they turn into ugly clumps of knotted yarn, or I forget how they were supposed to make another person happy. This tends to happen more often to projects that were intended to make ME happy. “I don’t want to spend 8 to 16 hours making me happy. Forget this.”

    (-: Might be a life lesson in that for me.

    • Michaeline, possibly not quite the story the photographer was going for 🙂

      Unless you are being paid for it, the story you tell in your own efforts, whether through crochet or some other medium only needs to work for you. Sounds like it’s just as easy for crochet projects to veer from the planned narrative as it is for written stories.

  2. Those are beautiful pictures, Elizabeth – and I love your bubble photo. I like opera, and I love narrative ballet – there’s something about the choreography fitting the music to tell the story that really ams up the emotional experience for me. It feeds my soul.

    I’m not arty or crafty at all – have no eye for photography, don’t draw, or paint, or sew. I do draw cartoons, but only for my own amusement, and my husband’s. We have a series of running gags that keep us entertained, but since the quality of my drawing is truly terrible, nobody else is ever, ever going to see them 😉

    • Thanks Jilly, glad you like the bubble photo. I love that it looks like there is a whole world captured inside of it.

      Opera and ballet are both great examples of storytelling. The music and the movement in each add a layer to the story that you just don’t get from words on a page.

  3. Love the bubble! Thanks for sharing Ryan’s photos with us. They’re amazing. I’m pretty good verbal storyteller with (I thnk) a good sense of comic timing. Nothing else–I’d love to be a painter or a sculptor or a musicion or a dancer or even a good cook, but this is what I can do. And it’s enough.

    • Jeanne, glad you like the bubble. I was having fun playing with the camera and a bottle of bubble solution the other day. I’d like to be a painter or sculptor too, but I have zero talent in those areas. Even my ability to draw stick figures is questionable. As you say, as long as you have some creative outlet, that’s enough.

  4. The only thing that I can do outside of whatever talent I have as a writer is that I can parallel park. I don’t think that ability does much for storytelling, though!

    • Kay – don’t knock parallel parking. There are many who can’t do it 🙂 Think of it as your contribution to ensure that other people’s stories don’t include dented fenders or boxed in cars.

  5. I tried to take up knitting last year, as doing tactile things tends to get my creative thinking flowing, but it was an unmitigated disaster. So when I’m working on my stories, I stick to jigsaw puzzles, music playlists, and the occasional collage that tell the story to me, but those wouldn’t make sense to anyone else.

    • Nancy – I hear you on the knitting. I can crochet, so I thought I would be able to knit as well, but no dice. I made one thing and that was enough for a life-time. I like quilting because it lets me play with patterns and work on changing perspectives (plus I don’t have to count stitches or work with pointy needles). If jigsaw puzzles, playlists, and collages work for you, that’s great. You’re the only one they need to make sense to.

      • I’m not a knitter either. It either involves too much counting (brain like a sieve, me), or it’s just boring back and forth and back and forth. I like crochet better. It seems faster, and you can see the “world” build stitch by stitch. I’ve got a real thing for spirally curly-cues.

  6. Pingback: Michaeline: Writing between the lines | Eight Ladies Writing

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