Project 1 Telling a Story
This section looks at two examples of linear storylines telling a story chronologically from an insider’s point of view.
- How does Briony Campbell’s the Dad Project (2011) compare with W. Eugene Smith’s Country Doctor (1948)?
- What do you think she means by ‘an ending without an ending’?
Both photographers were around the same age when these projects were created but a gap of more than fifty years divided them.
- Eugene Smith
An American photojournalist, joined Life Magazine in 1939 when he was around 21 after first working on two local newspapers in Wichita, then Newsweek. Smith was a war correspondent during the Second World War (hit by mortar fire in 1945), rejoining Life Magazine when he had recovered. He has been said to be the originator and then master of the photo essay and had a distinguished photographic career.
I looked at the article on the Time website, link provided in the C&N Handbook . I also remembered that there had been a WeAreOCA post about this work on 4th August 2011 that included a flip slideshow of the magazine spread so that I could see how the layout worked. The post also included a diagram of the sequencing on the spread but, unfortunately, that has now disappeared.
A British photographer, gained a Masters Degree in Photojournalism and Documentary in 2009. Her website here details her personal and commercial work. I read the the pdf of her accompanying text to The Dad Project which is on her website and also accessed a WeAreOCA post from 23rd August 2011 that contains two Vimeo interviews with Briony and links to a film and stills . There was also a limited edition book .
Here is my own pdf of a comparison between these two such different projects.
Yes they have a linear storyline and they involve film but the intent and process are so different. These are two statements that encapsulate an approach:-
The majority of photographic stories require a certain amount of setting up, re-arranging and stage direction to bring pictorial and editorial coherency to pictures …. It is done for the purpose of a better translation of the spirit of the actuality, it is completely ethical (W. Eugene Smith)
The sunlight supported me this year (Briony Campbell)
One is objective the other subjective. One created to persuade and the other to mourn a loss whilst celebrating a life and relationships. One got me thinking about sequencing and manipulation whilst the other touched my soul, created a lump in my throat and brought tears to my eyes.
I thought about ethics. Remembered at a student Residential Weekend in September 2012 where Peter Rudge from Duckrabbit was asked whether they would turn down work for ethical reasons, to which the answer was yes they would if necessary. This also came up in the first WeAreOCA interview with Briony Campbell where she said that she had not had a bad conflict in photographing for clients.
There’s another ethical question as well concerning the nature of The Dad Project. Is it right to film people who are dying? It isn’t something I could contemplate doing. For Briony Campbell it seemed to be a way to cope with the impending loss and she said that it was important to not make a series of ugly, painful, dark images and if there was a painful moment she tried harder to make the picture beautiful. I also noticed how she paced the sequencing of images – moving between her father when reasonably well and then when he was more ill. Her family agreed to the project and, her father? In the video he says, ”I thought it an opportunity to learn more about you as my daughter. To learn what it would be like for you to be without your Dad”. He was trying to be a good dad for as long as he could.
2. An ending without an ending?
Well, Briony Campbell does say she hopes it will always be the story of an ending without an ending. I can only guess what that means to her. What it means to me is that my relationship with my parents will never end even though they died in 1986. They are in my head and my heart; memories, letters and photographs. I see them when I look at myself in the mirror. I imagine that Briony Campbell might experience something similar.
22nd February 2015
http://oodee.net/books/briony-campbell-dad-project/ [accessed 16.2.2015]
http://weareoca.com/photography/country-doctor/ [Accessed 13.2.2015]
http://www.brionycampbell.com/about/ [Accessed 22.2.2015]
http://time.com/3456085/w-eugene-smiths-landmark-photo-essay-country-doctor/ [Accessed 13.2.2015]
http://weareoca.com/photography/i-take-pictures-i-am-compelled-to-take/ [accessed 31.2.2014)
https://vimeo.com/12600297 [accessed 16.2.2015]
http://www.brionycampbell.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/The_Dad_Project_Briony_Campbell.pdf [accessed 22.2.2015]