Lewis Bush – Storytelling Workshop Notes

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Section One: Story versus narrative 

One story (event) can produce multiple narratives. Narratives are all about choices and decisions. Narrative directs audiences.

From my earlier post on Narrative

© Beemgee 2017. https://www.beemgee.com/blog/story-vs-narrative/

Lewis had 4 Questions – my project approach is here

Q1: What is my narrative?

Real world events hugely complex and impossible to show everything.

Take a stance – and what is key – people, places, events . Not really objective.

Activity: Retell the story of David and Goliath with different narratives

Lewis is working on a book about Werner Von Braun – Nazi or NASA hero?

What is the one thing you want people to know about your project? This might become clearer as project proceeds, editing and curating. Have you got an elevator pitch 🙂

Q2: Characters?

Useful to drive the narrative and relate to audience. Thinking of characters forces photographer to think about how to present them. Don’t think that the characteristics are obvious to audience just because you know them well.

    • David – brave, clever, popular, noble – how visualise
    • Goliath – violent, scheming, populist, tyrannical

Not all characters have personality, are present, are human … not all stories have characters . The hotel is the main character in The Shining (Stanley Kubrick).

Watch Koyaanisqasti (Godfrey Reggio)

Q3: Time and Space

In a narrative, time is flexible. Audiences can move around in time. And narratives can break time.

Joseph and his Brothers (Thomas Mann, 1944) expands massively on the first 20 pages of Genesis.

Narratives always have a setting, a location. The details in photographs are suggestive, and if a photographer doesn’t provide it, the audience will imagine it.

Watch La Jeteé. This is a 1962 French Left Bank science fiction featurette by Chris Marker. Constructed almost entirely from still photos, it tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel. It is 28 minutes long and shot in black and white. It won the Prix Jean Vigo for short film. It sets up Paris (Orly) then audience assumes it’s all in Paris. The film uses archive footage to suggest the future.

Q4: Action – what happens?

In narratives, things happen. and action propels the story along.

Section Two: Time and Chronology

Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut.

Slaughterhouse 5 .. film clip of time in reverse – bombing of Dresden, sucking up the bombs, repairing buildings and planes etc.

Everything flows (Heraclitus), it’s the way we think about time.


W Eugène Smith ‘Country Doctor’. 1948, Dr Ernest Ceriani.

Lots of discussion on the essay (research .. is it in his Big Book?)

  • Use of time
  • Doctor as hero
  • Narrative vignettes
  • Girl kicked by horse as central tension
  • Mismatch of images and theme of rewarding to doctor (exhausted)
  • Which images stand out
  • Informed consent
  • Still not movie – project as it’s time
  • Easy to follow
  • Implied chronological order works as easy for audience


Gordon Parks ‘Harlem Gang Leader’. 1948, Red Jackson

The editors took out the positive material, Parks was upset as the published article just reinforced the (bad) stereotypes. There was also no resolution to the story – leaving an open narrative

  • Different to our perception of time
  • Easier to loose audience in non-chronology
  • But they have creative and dramatic possibilities

Unpublished images show Red in a much more positive light


Activity …. Kafka’s GP –  re-sequence Country Doctor 🙂

Section Three: Symbols

Roland Barthes …

Explicit & Implicit meaning

Symbolic Association

  • Everything has some kind of symbolism
  • Accumulated myths over time
    • Trees vs jet engines
  • Dictionaries of symbols
  • Context can affect symbolic meaning
  • Sometimes we want to leave things ambiguous
  • Kulesov effect – suggestion
  • Cultural differences
  • Reading left to right / right to left (horse, Hokusai’s Wave)
  • Frank’s covered car as part of Americans series

‘The Colour of Pomegranates’, Sergei Parajanov

Light & Colour

Approximate Light’, Christopher Anderson

Sunsets … death, instagram, ending, fire,

Colour theory

Red’, Boris Mikhalov

Dalston Anatomy’, Vitturi

Size, Scale and Complexity 

Metropole (Lewis Bush) as example

Activity … random pictures and title

Section Four: Cinema

Continuity of shots in sequence.

  • Also relates to breaking the illusion of reality in the narrative
  • Charlie Chaplin’s hat
  • Including yours in the shot

Perspective – where you shoot from

Manhattan’, Charles Scheeler

Parallel action (two actors meet, separate stories, meet at the end)

Disco Nights Sept 11’, Pieter van Agtmael


  • Repeated motifs
  • Typologies (the Becher’s)
  • ‘Predator’, Jean-Marie Donat

Narratives within Narratives 

Changed meaning of Doctor Caligari


Things that contribute to narrative within actually being part of it (e.g. materials used, where exhibited etc.).

The Heavens’, Woods and Galimberti

Editing & Sequencing tips

  1. Don’t start with huge number of images, start small with what you’ll include and then work up
  2. Don’t ignore the gaps in what you’ve photographed, make a note and shoot the picture – (get sequence right .. establish, detail, character, actions .. then what do you have?)
  3. It can be easy to get lost if relying heavily on symbolic images with different symbol readings of each photograph
  4. Document your edits systematically – use physical prints – you can reset
  5. Use your text and edit / shoot to the text
  6. Eventually translate to digital form (Adobe Bridge or InDesign)


VONNEGUT, Kurt. 1969. Slaughterhouse Five. 2019 Edition. London: Vintage Classics.

VONNEGUT, Kurt. 1998. Timequake. London: Vintage Classics.

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