The Image As Storytelling
There is a revolution going on…
Images are gaining momentum in the communication strategies of individuals, business and governments globally. In a sea of digital information, being noticed or engaged with, even for a second, can make or break your message.
Strong visuals with carefully considered aesthetics will propel your message to the widest possible audience and may lend you access to significant powerbroking potential.
The basis of my PhD and current research is The Image as Storytelling.
If today’s digital cultures, where ever they are in the world, are understood as fundamentally visual, then the ability to successfully create/decode them should be at the forefront of strategy for any public institution or private enterprise.
Visual storytelling, if handled with cultural sensitivity, allows you to construct a responsive image-based narrative that can be understood by today’s mobile-first global audiences.
My research shows how to use and leverage design aesthetics as a sensible, practical and creative tool to augment your visual communication strategy in the digital sphere.
Understanding the power of aesthetics to change the mood, tone or direction of a message (see below) means that you can tailor your output to meet/influence the emotional/intellectual requirements of your target audience implicitly.
In 2017 Prof. David Moore convened The Future of Photography Conference at the University of Westminster. The event saw the launch of The Image as Storytelling project in front of an invited audience including Clare Grafik, Senior Editor at the London based Photographers’ Gallery, Anne Bourgeois-Vignon, Global director at Magnum Photos, and the photographer Simon Roberts.
So, Where Are We?
Education across Europe and the United States has been fostering a specific agenda of verbal literacy since the advent of the Industrial Revolution.
However, over the last 20 years or so, the Internet Revolution seems to have altered, at an essential level, the relationship between words and images.
The visual dialectic that contemporary scholars argue for, is one re/rooting cultural traditions back to a visually informing/ed centrality. Today’s grand narratives, both at the popular and academic level, seem to provide scholars with a strong argument around previous, but long neglected, visual dialectics.
A dialectics that, it might be argued, has a much longer history than the written tradition. This notional growth of visual supremacy across today’s multimedia formats raises a number of interesting issues. These, I feel, may best exemplified by the following questions:
Is having the capability to shoot hundreds of pictures daily actually supporting and/or promoting visual literacy?
In other words, is production on this scale leading to any sort of competency, understanding or skills development?
How do we ensure that we do not merely adopt verbal frameworks but adapt them into sensible grammars of visual literacy?
Visual semiotics, is a research field still coming out of the doldrums. As it re-emerges it might be the best tool available to us to enhance our ability to interpret and consequently story-tell.
As a practitioner I find myself regularly questioning what telling a story means visually. Consequently, why not moving from ‘story>telling’ to story > showing?
Indeed, storytelling can arguably be appreciated as a pivot, if not the pivot, for all forms and formats of communication, from the visual to the verbal. In The Name of The Rose, semiotician Umberto Eco states that “Man is a storytelling animal by nature.”
Storytelling has consistently been the practice of producing communication as well as of telling a story and understanding it. Frequently, it is all of these things simultaneously. This may happen in ways truly undetectable to the individual, as research on ‘flashbulb memories’ has recently explored, with particular reference to 9/11 witness accounts.
It has long been argued that all communication might be best understood as a multitude of overlapping processes of storytelling incorporating both the telling and the understanding of such stories. In such a context, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality seem to be further questioning the thin red line distinguishing the idea of turning life into a narrative, from that of making things up.