Print sequences and photoessays

If you have shot some form of narrative picture sequence, you must decide the minimum number of prints needed to tell your story. Perhaps the series of pictures was planned right from the start, set up and photographed like scenes from a movie. Sometimes, though, it

evolves from part of a heavily photographed event or outing, which becomes a narrative story once you begin to sort out the prints.

Often, the only way of making a documentary-type story is simply to photograph an event from beginning to end. All the images taken on the day are then laid out (or viewed on screen) and the best group of six or seven selected. Make your choice based on how well each picture tells the story individually and as part of the greater series. Ensure that all the technical aspects of the images (focus, exposure, depth of field, lighting) are suitable as well. Once you have made a selection, check the sequence of the images. Make sure that each links to each other and they logically fit all together. Be prepared to add, subtract and replace pictures from the group that you originally started with until you are sure that you have the strongest mix of photographs.

When it comes to presenting the series, it may help with the continuity of the group if all the prints are trimmed to the same shape and size. Then, you can present them in rows on one mount so that they read like a cartoon strip, or run them one to a page in a small album or a handmade book, or even hang them as an exhibition at a local library or café.

If you want to caption the photographs, be sparing in what you write. As a photographer it is often best to let your pictures speak for themselves, even though some viewers may differ slightly in the story they read from the sequence. People don't like to have ideas rammed into their heads; unless you can write brilliant copy you will probably only be repeating what can be seen anyway and this can seem precious or patronizing.

Sets of pictures that share a common theme but are not based on a narrative often don't need to be read in a set order. This approach offers you much freedom of layout. Follow some of the layout ideas on the pages of picture magazines and display your work more as a 'photoessay', presenting half a dozen prints on an exhibition board or page of a large format album. As Figure 45.1 shows, you can make all the picture proportions different in a documentary series, to give variety and best suit each individual composition.

Don't be tempted to slip one or two dull or weak pictures into a photo-essay just because their subject content ought to be included. Every shot should be good enough to stand on its own and each should add strength to the whole series. If you feel that there are gaps in the sequence, then it may be necessary to take some more pictures. Similarly, if one print is a bit too small or large relative to others, be prepared to print it again at a different size.

When laying out your set of pictures, take care over the way you relate one print to another - the lines, colors, textures and shapes, as well as the subject matter they contain, should flow together well, not conflict and confuse.

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