Photography As Narrative

The Little Boy and his Lanyard

It's another sunny summer in Santa Cruz, California and the jolly team of Resident Assistants are back to take on  another crew of smarty pants tweens and teens. Jack returns for the third consecutive year along with rookie staff members Joe, Alex, Tanya and Dylan.

Today is the first day of activities and Jack and Alex teamed up (as is the tradition of the program, 2 staff members to an assignment) to take on the most popular field activity: ultimate frisbee. 

Ultimate Frisbee is a success. Students are having the time of their lives as the sun is shining over the field, sitting atop a beautiful hill overlooking the bay. The time is now 5:15 and Jack & Alex must wrap up the game and round the kids up for dinner at 6. As they proceed to do a headcount, they notice one of the students is missing their lanyard. 

Jack gently asks, "Where is your lanyard, kiddo?"

He nervously respond, "I'm not sure. I remember it being on my neck. It must've fell somewhere on the field during ultimate."

He and Jack began to scan the field together while Alex and the rest of the gang waited patiently on the sideline. Luckily, the students' lanyards are pink and easily seen, very distinguishable from staff lanyards. They continue searching. 

Jack: "Hey guys! Let's play a game. It's called....Find the lanyard...NOW!"

The kids on the sideline were not interested at all. There faces read as uninterested and bodies fatigued, but that was only true for all but three: the mighty, ever-so-fabulous trio -- Kelly, Alesandara, Toni; they were inseparable and hardly ever leave each other's side. 

They all scan the field in different parts. 5 minutes pass and Kelly screams, "Found it!" 

Jack deeply exhales and round the kiddos up for dinner. He turns to Alex, in the most comedic voice, saying "Let's get this show on the road...onward and upward." While walking up the hill towards the cafeteria, the winning team decided to stop for a selfie 'photo-op.' Jack stops to take the photo for the girls to help move them along the road as quickly as possible. 

 

Walking to dinner with a group of enthusiastic youth is one the most challenging things ever. Jack and Alex are pros at this point of the game. Their strategy is to take walking paths that are super cool, nature like and away from traffic. This day would be their lucky day. While walking, the group ran into a deer. Some of the kids freaked out. Some pulled out their phones. Some were just stuck, mouth agape in awe, and trying to make out what was in front of them. 

"Look, it's a deer!" exclaimed the little kiddo that lost his lanyard earlier on the field, "I want to play it with it."

Trying his hardest to the gain the attention of the deer, he takes his lanyard off of his neck and start to swing it in circular motion. Not only is he violating camp rules and community standards, but he's taunting the deer. Consequently, the deer closely approached the little boy, coming in closer--as he continue to swing the lanyard--and scaring the little boy causing him to drop the lanyard. That was last of it. The deer pranced off with the lanyard in its mouth. Tragedy!

Jack is very frustrated at this point. He had to take the little boy to the office to fill out an incident report while the others continued on to dinner with Alex. Additionally, Jack is very hungry and thinking about the 2 hour span to get dinner and how food goes really fast.

He asks, again, "Why can't you keep your lanyard around your neck. You are now inconveniencing me and my time. That is not okay!"

Little boy responds, "I'm sorry, Mr. Jack. I know we're not supposed to take them off, but sometimes mine really itch and it irritate my skin."

Jack: "What a perfect time to tell me that it itch. Why didn't you say something about this earlier."

Little boy: "I was afraid. Am I in trouble?"

Jack fills out report and after taking the little boy to see the nurse, they finally made it to the cafeteria just in time to enjoy their meal and the camp favorite: sesame chicken and rice. Jack leaves the kid and join his coworkers to debrief. They all began to share tidbits about their day and bounced ideas around as to what folks would do during the evening break when the kids returned to class. Some folks said they'd watch a movie while others had more organized work to do for their committee. The upcoming weekend would be the camp's notorious casino night where students get a taste of vegas for one night. Jack is on that committee, later having complicated feelings about it all -- he was torn; He wanted to watch a movie but he also had obligations to his committee and also a report to finish regarding the little boy and his lanyard. 

Jack decided that he'd just watch a movie with Joe, Alex and Dylan. He left Tanya all alone to prepare for the casino night. He decided that watching a movie would help to calm his nerves and that he would go to finish the incident report before the evening post class student pick-up.

The night would end on an anti-climatic note. Jack was able to get the kid a new lanyard and watch a movie but he abandoned his committee obligation.

Tanya yells across the yard to Jack very angry and tired, "Jack! I am very upset with you! Where were you?"

Jack responds, "My apologies Tanya! Blame it on The Little Boy and his Lanyard."

The Faceless Portrait

For this assignment, I decided to capture random shots while out and about with friends. I used a Canon EOS 7D with a Canon Ultrasonic 28-135 mm lens mostly shooting with natural light and some fixed/external lighting. 

1. Man on the Go:

The vertical orientation of the photo allowed me to capture the subject's entire body and  the details of his attire and presentation. Also present is a figure ground relationships between the subject and the ground. The attached shadow on the subject is not as transparent but there is a slow falloff happening. 

The vertical orientation of the photo allowed me to capture the subject's entire body and  the details of his attire and presentation. Also present is a figure ground relationships between the subject and the ground. The attached shadow on the subject is not as transparent but there is a slow falloff happening. 

2. The Faceless Drag Queen

This was by far the most creative drag performances I have seen. The performer is disguising one of the most important elements to drag: the face (where most of the drama of drag occurs). With her face covered, this queen, in particular, wanted to engage the audience in a different way. It forced you to really pay attention to her lips and experience drag beyond the makeup. For this shot, there was low-key lighting present on stage with a cameo-lighting setup casting an attached shadow on the subject's body, and the natural light present during the evening hour. The subject is also casting a detached shadow. 

This was by far the most creative drag performances I have seen. The performer is disguising one of the most important elements to drag: the face (where most of the drama of drag occurs). With her face covered, this queen, in particular, wanted to engage the audience in a different way. It forced you to really pay attention to her lips and experience drag beyond the makeup. For this shot, there was low-key lighting present on stage with a cameo-lighting setup casting an attached shadow on the subject's body, and the natural light present during the evening hour. The subject is also casting a detached shadow. 

3. A Mother's Praise

In this shot, a daylight scene,  I employed horizontal framing as the light is casting a slow falloff on the subject. I loved this image so much because it was so resilient and powerful. 

In this shot, a daylight scene,  I employed horizontal framing as the light is casting a slow falloff on the subject. I loved this image so much because it was so resilient and powerful. 

4. Sunshine On A Saturday Morning

I shot this one using the natural light to create a silhouette and center pull with the subjects walking towards me. This was an early morning capture, walking towards the train station, and I thought it was really cool shot.

I shot this one using the natural light to create a silhouette and center pull with the subjects walking towards me. This was an early morning capture, walking towards the train station, and I thought it was really cool shot.

5. Light and Pull

 In this photo, I chose the lighter and cigarette as the focus of the image; with that, there is some spatial/compositional function to the way in which the subject is lighting and holding the lighter. I would even add that cameo lighting is also happening here casting an attached shadow on the subject. Additionally, nose room is provided for the subject as well with a shifted right emphasis. 

 In this photo, I chose the lighter and cigarette as the focus of the image; with that, there is some spatial/compositional function to the way in which the subject is lighting and holding the lighter. I would even add that cameo lighting is also happening here casting an attached shadow on the subject. Additionally, nose room is provided for the subject as well with a shifted right emphasis. 

6. On-The-Go, On-The-Phone

In this shot, I decided to focus on the use of the phone, which says a lot about the subject and their relationship to it. The image is also making use of flat, high-key lighting, with lighting all around the subject.  

In this shot, I decided to focus on the use of the phone, which says a lot about the subject and their relationship to it. The image is also making use of flat, high-key lighting, with lighting all around the subject.  

7. Cream Cheese, The Cat

In this photo, I decided to capture my housemate's cat. The cat is a really big part of our home and it is connected to a larger story about my housemate. I liked the shot particularly because of the casted shadow on the wall. 

In this photo, I decided to capture my housemate's cat. The cat is a really big part of our home and it is connected to a larger story about my housemate. I liked the shot particularly because of the casted shadow on the wall. 

8. Hot Sauce 

For this photo, I captured the most used items in my house: utensils and hot sauce. This says a lot about the style in which my housemates and i love to consume our food—spicy with a kick of flavor. I took a shot here at object framing and the light is casting an attached shadow on the objects. 

For this photo, I captured the most used items in my house: utensils and hot sauce. This says a lot about the style in which my housemates and i love to consume our food—spicy with a kick of flavor. I took a shot here at object framing and the light is casting an attached shadow on the objects. 

9. Hot Sauce, Again

With this shot, I wanted to capture the same subject at a different angle, from the birds perspective with an object-connected cast shadow. 

With this shot, I wanted to capture the same subject at a different angle, from the birds perspective with an object-connected cast shadow. 

10. Kick Push

This shot was one of my favorites. My friend was skating and i saw the shadow and wanted to capture it immediately. The light is casting an object-disconnected shadow.  

This shot was one of my favorites. My friend was skating and i saw the shadow and wanted to capture it immediately. The light is casting an object-disconnected shadow.  





Regarding the Pain of Others

Susan Sontag makes many compelling arguments in Regarding the Pain of Others. In her writing, she interrogates the role and effect (war) photography have on how the viewer understand, consume, and sympathize with the pain of others. 

She writes, "And photographs of the victims of war are themselves a species of rhetoric. They reiterate. They simplify. They agitate. They create the illusion of consensus." (p.8) This line resonate most (with me) in seeking to understand the "difficulty of communication" raised as a point in answering how to prevent war (in the beginning of chapter 1). 

"The understanding of war among people who have not experienced war is now chiefly a product of the impact of these images." (p. 19)

(Photo: Robert Capa)

(Photo: Robert Capa)

Sontag talks here about the impact of images — more specifically about how it impacts one whose experience with war is a product of imagery. She continues, "Photographs have the kind of authority over imagination today, which the printed word had yesterday, and the spoken word before that. They seem utterly real." (p. 22) What is mostly real about these photos perhaps is how real they become for the viewer; the shock value. She uses Robert Capa's famous photograph—taken during the Spanish Civil War—of the Republican soldier being hit by an enemy bullet as an example. The impact of this grainy black and white photo is quite captivating yet disturbing. In the words of Sontag, "it is expected to arrest attention, startle, and surprise."

(Photo: Robert Cohen, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

(Photo: Robert Cohen, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

The photo above captures a demonstrator throwing a tear gas container back towards tactical officers working to break up a group of bystanders during the height of the Ferguson Riot, August 13, 2014. I chose this image because the impact of it is simply powerful and loud — that a (presumably) young black male is fighting back against police brutality and the militarization of police in Ferguson, MO. We didn't see the tear gas launched at the subject in this photo but his response is what captivates the eye. 't the words of Sontag, "this photo bores witness to the real." It is resistance. It is rage. It is moving!

To remember is, more and more, not to recall a story but to be able to call up a picture. (p. 70) 

Sontag writes here about the problem of people remembering images and not stories. There is a significant narrative and life behind the photo, which deserves to be remembered just as much as the photo. Without that context, photos lose its complexity and become what folks remember as the event. "Harrowing photographs do not inevitably lose their power to shock. But they are not much help if the task is to understand," Sontag writes. "Narratives can make us understand, but Photographs do something else: they haunt us.  For example, she uses a photo by Ron Haviv of a Serb militiaman casually kicking a drying woman in the head. Sontag notes that photo doesn't tell us much else other than what is present: "that war is hell" and that people are dying.

(Photo: Ron Haviv)

(Photo: Ron Haviv)

(Photo: Tyler Hicks, The New York Times)

(Photo: Tyler Hicks, The New York Times)

Similarly to this photo, I chose a photo captured by Tyler Hicks of a man who was beaten by a crowd of pro-democracy protesters in Katmandu after being suspected as an undercover security agent. The photo is telling yet not enough for the viewer to fully understand what is happening. 

 

"Certain photographs—emblems of suffering, such as the snapshot of the little boy in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943, his hands raised, being herded to the transport to a death camp—can be used like memento mori, as objects of contemplation to deepen one's sense of reality; as secular icons, if you will." 

(Photo: Franz Konrad)

(Photo: Franz Konrad)

Sontag describes this photo as painful suffering and I connected with it immediately because I can relate to emotion captured in this photo and to the effects of systemic violence on such a personal level. When I first saw this photo, I immediately saw a parallel image in my mind of protestors in Ferguson, MO, not only surrounding in the name of Mike Brown saying "Hands Up, Don't Shoot," but also pleading for their lives. The seriousness and sincerity is almost too palpable

(Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images News)

(Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images News)