Category Archives: Using Pictures to tell a story & Postmodern Narrative

Using Pictures to tell a story: Postmodern Narrative

David Cambell in his lecture (1 & 2) to photographic students of the Jonathan Worth’s innovative class on photography and narrative at Coventry, outlines the elements of a photographic narrative as follows:

  • introducing the location
  • giving the story a ‘face’
  • letting people tell their own story
  • contextualizing those stories
  • following a dramatic form

For someone developing a visual story, the most important thing to ask is ‘what is the story you really want to tell?’ Answering that can mean working through these questions:

  • what is the issue?
  • what will be the events/moments?
  • if needed, who are the characters?
  • what is the context?

A narrative is about an event and

the event is something that can be narrated.

Research and reading is essential to construct the narrative. A story has to be told in a particular way, each narrative has limitations in the way it can be told. Somethings have to be included and some excluded. There has to be an angle which may be limited. So a narrative cannot include everything. It is up to the photographer to decide what is included.

He asks “What is the the issue”, “Who are the characters?” To establish this a lot of research needs to be done before you embark on the story in images. Then it must be decided if the story will be linear, with a beginning , middle and end.


When you’re creating your narrative (or essay, or story) bear these points in mind and consider how your viewer will ‘read’ your story, namely:
• Do the pictures have a consistent theme?
• What elements back up your central theme?
• What disrupts it?
• Are there good reasons for this disruption?
• Do the images have a visual consistency that holds them together as a recognisable set?

Postmodern Narrative

Having read both Zadie Smith and Italo Calvino, albeit some time ago, I was unaware that they had challenged the idea of a beginning, a middle and an end to a story. I was more aware of the style of Smith’s writing as being very modern and at times incomprehensible and chaotic. I assume now that this could be described as a sort of stream of consciousness.  I was not aware that, if I accept Roland Barthes’ theory in The Death of the Author (4), I, the reader, was being invited  to put myself into the story. That as soon as a fact is narrated, the voice (of the author) looses its origin, the author enters into his own death, writing begins.

Barthes also tells us that. previously, the author existed before, during the writing of, and after his work was complete whereas the modern sculpture is born similtaneously with the text. He traces a field without origin, or least has no origin other than language itself. We the readers are asked, by these modern writers, to invest more of ourselves in the reading of modern texts. A typical modern book which demands this sort of involvement is City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (5). I am not sure I agree with Barthes theory that this created a more enriching experience for me whereas another less modern book The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (6) which involved a great deal of reader input, was an enriching experience for me. I would love to believe his theory that

The reader is the space in which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost

I am afraid many of the inscribed quotations of many writers are lost on me. However I do not believe that we have reached ‘the death of the death of the author’. I believe what we will see in the future is a widening of the pallet of material to accommodate all reader tastes, reading habits, reading media and intellectual capacities. I think that the use of modern technologies is opening up a whole new world of possibilities for authors to co-operate with other authors and media types to coalesce their ideas and techniques to produce completely novel works.



  1. Photography and narrative: What is involved in telling a story? – David Campbell. 2015. Photography and narrative: What is involved in telling a story? – David Campbell. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 28 December 2015].
  2. A sound cloud recording:
  3. Family Photography: Modern Storytelling with Kirsten Lewis. 2015. Family Photography: Modern Storytelling with Kirsten Lewis. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 28 December 2015].
  4. . 2015. . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 29 December 2015].
  5. Barry, K, 2011. City of Bohane. 1st ed. New York: Vintage Books.
  6. Kafka, F, 1915. The Metamomorphosis. 1st ed. Leipzig: Kurt Wolf.