- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Focal Press; 1 edition (October 15, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 024081519X
- ISBN-13: 978-0240815190
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.5 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,638,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Visual Narrative 1st Edition
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Amazon Exclusive Content: The Photographer's Story
Michael Freeman's Letter to Amazon readers:
Everyone’s interested in stories. We read them in books and magazines, watch them at the movies and on television, listen to them over a meal with friends, and tell them ourselves. Deep down, it’s the prime entertainment, and always has been. Not surprising then, that so many photographers want to know how to do it with their images. Aiming for the stand-alone great shot is one thing - and yes, it’s probably the supreme challenge in photography - but storytelling with photographs involves much more. It can, and should, include the great shots, but it also needs to do things like carry a narrative, and above all keep the audience watching the show or turning the pages.
How do you do it? That means how exactly, not how vaguely. It’s never enough to put down a selection of favourite pictures and say, ‘they tell a story’. What story? Is it told well? Does it keep people looking, and following the thread? This is what this book is about, and it’s a subject very close to my heart.
The reason why I’m close to it - and frankly why most of my professional photographer friends are close to it - is that it’s the core skill of being an editorial photographer. All my working life I’ve been on assignment for one client or another, and the assignments have nearly always been a story. The magazine calls and says ‘we’re running a story on this - can you shoot it?’, or ‘here’s the writer’s text; can you make this work?’ And then it starts, the by-now very familiar process of research, logistics, fixing, shooting, sorting out problems, worrying about how it’s going, and the missing shot that I really need, and have we got there yet? During the shoot, it all feels badly unfinished, until there’s a moment and suddenly you realise you really did just take the last shot, and it ties the story up one and for all. This is not at all a good moment, even though you’ve been trying to reach it for a long time, because all of a sudden it’s over. I love all of this, of course, and now I think it’s time to write about it and break the whole thing down and show how, exactly, photo stories happen.
The Photographer's Story: Additional images
The Photographer’s Story was a very different book to do because of the sheer number of images. Each of the stories featured itself needed between a dozen and 20 images, and we also wanted to show how the images related to each other, in layouts and in slideshows. Yet at the same time the length of the book is fixed, so the danger was running pictures too small to be worth looking at. In the end we developed some design solutions that I’m pleased with, including ways of showing the structure of a slideshow — in print. There’s so much that goes on in a slideshow that even the conventional storyboarding methods used in film and television weren’t enough. Anyway, the net result on the picture selection was that we had to drop a large number of images, which couldn’t be helped. So here are some of the images from the Elephant story described on pages 62-63. These are not out-takes - they play a key role in telling the story of the Thai elephant today.
Michael Freeman's Top Ten
I’ve been asked to list the top ten ‘must haves’ in professional editorial shooting. Everyone likes lists, but the trouble is, the really important things are dead obvious, like the camera and stuff, but it’s not very interesting to read about, is it? Here some more things:
About the Author
Michael Freeman is a renowned international photographer and writer who specializes in travel, architecture, and Asian art. He is particularly well known for his expertise in special effects. He has been a leading photographer for the Smithsonian magazine for many years, and has worked for Time-Life Books and Reader's Digest. Michael is the author of more than 20 photographic books, including the hugely successful Complete Guide to Digital Photography and The Photographer's Eye.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
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Freeman is uniquely qualified to write this book for two main reasons. Firstly, he has been walking the walk since the 1970s doing stories, essays, photographic picture story books, and how-to books in such numbers as makes keeping track no longer useful. He's done so many stories for "Smithsonian" magazine that I'm not sure he still keeps count. But the uniqueness of his qualification is, IMHO (not really H), his ability to articulate his mind in objective, analytical ways on subjects most artists are shy to, refuse to, or cannot address in a concrete fashion. Most artists of any stripe are experts at handwaving and telling about their "feelings," but couldn't say why an image works in an objective sense if their lives depended on it. Freeman is comfortable in making that leap into those unpopular domains.
Better than almost anyone else, he can take a process, define its characteristics and components, talk about how they work to achieve the goal, and how to get there. He is especially clever at inventing schematic representations of aspects of a process that give the reader not just his words and photos, but visual information on the interactions of the process components among themselves and through time to its completion.
So a bit about this book, the organization of which is straight forward. A major theme running through the book is that the possibilities and demands for storytelling with photographs are changing with almost every new electronic medium hitting the markets. Another is that throughout the book he emphasizes the roles of all players and stake holders in the entire process, as seldom is a project a photographer-centric solo effort. His ease within this multi-polar environment is evident in his respect for their roles in handling his own work.
The first section is "The Photo Essay," wherein he introduces and breaks down the "classic narrative" structure of a story and also introduces his first visual schematic, which graphs a model of the rise and fall of tensions through the flow of the story. He uses two of his own stories to illustrate the general idea in one case, and to introduce a schematic method to show the rhythm and pace of the flow of image content, colorfulness, scale of the scene (closeup versus medium and long shots), and the visual weight (in this case, of human faces). He uses this approach several times throughout the book in explaining and illustrating his argument. I have a concern that sometimes - in particular, the schematic for changes in colorfulness - the model needs a bit more explanation for the reader to be certain of understanding what one is seeing, or supposed to see.
In the first section, he also delves into the historical archives to show from where his story originates. He does a superb job of analyzing the all-time classic and great essay by W. Eugene Smith for Life magazine, "The Country Doctor." I've not seen it done from so many points of view, supported by his schematics to separate visual aspects of the images and layouts from the content of those images. He could make a whole book of this type of analysis on other essays and stories.
The second section, "Planning & Shooting," covers a breakout of the different types of photo stories and then looks at the planning required of all participants in the story, from the various editors to participants in the activities, to supporting the shooting itself, to the various uses after shooting. Imagining a shoot without adequate planning is a waste of everyone's time and resources.
The third and last section, "Edit & Show," is the meatiest, and technical. He covers the types and reasons for the various edits, aspects of space-time in the layout, and the differences between print and the various internet and visual media in how a story can be advantageously presented. While tablets, such as the iPad, are the latest influence on changing the presentation of stories, they certainly will not be the last.
This book is arguably the finest current look at its subject. But in another dimension, it is also the fourth of a series starting with "The Photographer's Eye," followed by "_ Mind" and "_ Vision." These together comprise the only extant effort to present the most difficult aspects of the photographic enterprise at an intellectual level. As a foursome, they deserve to be presented as a boxed set. Every university level photography program should require that boxed set. Writing on the arts does not get better than what Freeman has given us.
I've never done a photo essay, so I'm not sure how useful this really is for me. But now I want to try! And it's written in Freeman's typical style, which I like. After all is said and done, I think I learned a lot, even if I never do a photo essay. So I'm glad I read the book, even though I might never have read it if I knew what it was about before I bought it.
But just be warned: this book really is about creating photo essays; if you don't want to do that, this book may not be for you.
Mr Freeman has a great understanding of the visual images and an extraordinary knowledge in the field as a professional photographer.
His years of experience in shooting on location around the globe and his aptitude for passing on the technical and artistic wisdom is invaluable to both professional and amateur photographers.