Visual storytelling

This is my image which was voted runner up in the Classic View category of Landscape Photographer of the Year (LPOTY) 2021. It is not a typical landscape image in that it doesn’t have a recognisable local feature and is essentially an image centred around two dead trees standing in a marsh. I took it because the scene spoke to me. The two dead trees, separated by distance and reeds, seemed to be reaching out to each other. There was a connection between them and I used this to tell a story. By choosing my viewpoint I emphasised the connection, placing the larger tree closer to the front of the frame, making it more dominant and angling the shot so that the branches were pointing towards the smaller tree. This shot is all about an unattainable physical connection, although I feel that there is an emotional one here too which is emphasised by the misty sunrise and the ethereal beauty of the morning.

So how do you take a photo that stands alone and tells a story as a single image? Would several images make a better story? And if so how do you go about putting together a panel of images or a much larger body of work to tell a story?

These questions are the subject of a new series of visual story telling workshops which I will be running along the Suffolk coast next year. 

To tie in with the workshops I will be launching a new collaborative photography project for which I am looking for photographers who would like to take part and contribute a single image or a panel of 3 images which tell a story about the Suffolk Coast. Each visual story will be accompanied by a short piece of text (max 500 words) which will need to compliment or enhance the visual work. All selected entries will become part of a book which will be published in November 2022. 

The theme of the book will be Planet Suffolk – Love letters from a changing world. 

The idea behind the project was born during the recent COP26 climate talks in Glasgow when I was wondering about the local take on the issues facing the planet. I was curious to know if people were concerned or ambivalent or whether they just felt powerless to make any changes.

The summit also got me thinking about photography and our role as photographers and story tellers. I believe that environmental change begins at home with knowledge and awareness. As photographers we have the ability and the duty to tell our visual stories and communicate with others what we see and what is important to us. 

Planet Suffolk – Love letters from a changing world is a project about climate change and the issues the world faces viewed from a local perspective. What is our personal take on the crisis and how does it relate to Suffolk?

If you would like to take part I am looking for stories about Suffolk that talk about landscape, nature, a personal connection with the natural world, threats, fears, current practices or modern life. They don’t have to be complicated stories, they can be as simple as showing the beauty of a place or animal, or the fragility of our coastline in the face of rising sea levels. They can talk about natural diversity or the scourge of marine litter or some of the great environmental projects that are taking place locally. There are numerous possibilities with numerous subjects but the thing that they all need to have in common is that the stories need to be related to the environment and need to be something you care about so that your passion shines through in your images.

If you need reminding about the urgency of action these words were spoken by David Attenborough

“Climate change is the greatest threat modern humans have ever faced.” 

“Our burning of fossil fuels, our destruction of nature, our approach to industry, construction and learning are releasing carbon into the atmosphere at an unprecedented pace and scale,” 

“We are already in trouble. The stability we all depend on is breaking.”

Going back to the image at the start of this piece I suppose it could be viewed as a visual metaphor for climate change and perhaps it really says something about my attitude towards the issues. 

Sometimes I feel like the small tree in the background, isolated and powerless in the face of uncertainty. I reach out to the the bigger entities, the politicians and decision makers, in the hope that they will work together to help protect the natural world we all call home. But it seems there is an unattainable gap between what I feel and what those in charge are willing or able to achieve. In this respect the image could be talking about a world wide issue illustrated from a personal local point of view.

They say every picture tells a story – what will yours talk about?

If you would like to get involved in this project please drop me a short email to register your interest and I will send you further information.