We’ve all grown up learning that a picture is worth a thousand words. Undoubtedly, we have also seen it play out. Each photograph capturing anything: be it a landscape or a portrait, or a historical event, speak to the viewer with a narrative that strikes a personal cord. Storytelling through photography is a nuanced art – it is about conveying what the photographer perceived from behind the lens, and projecting that truth to the people who will see the photograph. In the written word, a story is conveyed in a heavily confined manner: for the writer projects certain thoughts and guides the reader to fall in line with those thoughts. But what writing doesn’t always achieve, is done through pictures and photographs.
In constructing a narrative around a picture, there is an element of projection and room for adventurous imagination and thinking. The same photograph, therefore, is fully capable of evoking different story ideas and thoughts in different people. Needless to say, it really is a personal experience for the recipient of the information to define a photograph by what they perceive as the concept underlying it.
Stock photography is one of the most versatile platforms for storytelling. Let’s take an example. You have a picture of a child looking out into an open landscape space, with his back to the photographer. This photograph could tell so many stories. For a recipient of the information intending to speak about the innocence of a child, this would be a marvelous addition. For someone telling the story of an abused history of a child, the photograph could work wonders. For someone looking to tell the story of their own past, the admiration of landscape by a child is a reflection of perspective and how time can change things. For another person who wants to focus on the landscape and not the child himself, the photograph could well paint another story altogether. The uncanny part in all this is that the photographer may, himself, not even seen these angles coming.
The use of a photograph as an augmentation or addition to material that has been written is a very significant tool in giving the recipient of the written content, a visual aid. In this day and age when content strikes a chord only if it is visually appealing, and when different kinds of content remain in constant competition with each other for attention through different media, it is but imperative that there is some kind of a powerful note in each picture that is used. Shooting pictures and sharing them as stock images is one of the best ways to ensure the versatility of your photography in opening it up to many different narratives to tell. To quote the veteran AP photo journalist Eddie Adams, “Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world.”