Photography literally means to write with light. But just as there are any infinite number of subjects to write about, so too are the endless combinations of varying qualities of light that reflects off everyone and everything on the planet. In so doing, the light creates a written score, a documentation of the subject that passes through the eye of the camera lens, through the lens of the eye of the photographer, on to his brain. Here is where the interpretation of the subject occurs, in the mind of the photographer who can then record the written score in any number of ways for any number of purposes. However, to achieve his intended previsualized goal, the photographer must become more than just a writer of light.
A narration on the other hand, refers to the reading aloud of the written score or documentation. It is the conveying, telling a story, reciting an event to the audience with creativity, sensitivity, to communicate the emotional experience, so that the listener can picture clearly in his own mind's eye what actually happened. To expressively read or see with light, the photographer has to become the narrator of the illuminated subject or written score before him. What creates the narrative, is the mind of the photographer, drawing on his own individual insight, personality, emotions, applying his own personal experiences to the subject before him. Then by going through the creative process; the what, the when’s, and the how’s of the medium, he can produce the work he desires.
Is the what, or subject matter, something he can respond to, have an emotional bond with so as to interpret it? Are the when’s, the lighting, is it complimentary, enhancing to the subject? Is it the right time of day, the right weather conditions with clouds or bright sun, overcast, rain, fog? Is it even the right season? Should I come back in the summer or fall? The how’s or techniques, what is the right camera-lens combination? Is the exposure, not just the correct one but the one that will record the mood, feeling, emotion? Should I use a filter? When printing the image in the darkroom, what manipulations are necessary to further enhance the emotional experience? How should the final print be presented?
All the variables must be controlled by the photographer so as to narrate his emotional experience of the subject to the viewing audience. Ansel Adams once stated there are always at least two people in his photographs, the photographer and the viewer. The link between the two is the final image, the photograph, what is hung on the wall or published on the printed page. When the final image is presented, the creative process and technique fade into insignificance. What matters is whether the photographer has accomplished what he set out to do. Is the photograph successful? Has the narrator told the story, interpreted the score of the illuminated subject so that the viewer is able to respond emotionally as the photographer did? Does it soothe the spirit, does it entreat a musical symphony, a nocturne, a crescendo of joy, does it spark memories of someone, someplace, does it invoke a sadness, anger, concern, do the shapes and textures form an abstraction to contemplate, is the photograph just plain beautiful?
There is much that can be conveyed through narrating in light and it is the photographer’s responsibility of bring these endless possibilities of the world around us to the viewing audience. So long as the sun keeps rising and setting, as long as the earth’s weather patterns circulate the globe, so long as the seasons come and go, there will always be work to do, telling the stories of the world.