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Guest Speaker: Jim Grover - Storytelling
By Gerard F Ryan
Posted on 9/1/2020 11:00 PM
We were delighted by Jim Grover’s lecture which kick-started our 2020-21 storytelling project.  Labels are helpful, but never give the whole picture.  Jim is described as a social documentary photographer based in Clapham, South London.  That rather two dimensional label was belied by the presentation we received.  “Making the unseen seen” is a better description of his craft.

Jim clearly loves people and photography. He explained that he is ruthless about what he photographs, because he absolutely has to engage with his subjects.  He explained the difference between a story and a photographic essay.

Through using photographs, the whole story is greater than the sum of its parts (individual photographs).  One has to be ruthless and sometimes cull brilliant photos if they don’t make sense of the story.  Equally, an ordinary image that wouldn’t stand up on its own count, can be essential and pivotal to a story .(It is not the first time we heard that great photographers are often not very good editors)!

Jim recommended getting to know the subject for a story by venturing out without a camera, and making extensive notes.  A practice he learnt with Carolyn Drake.  Guaranteed to make the photographer really observe and better able to focus and return with a task, rather than getting fixated by one big thing.

The story is PERSONAL.   You will need

  • Content (the images)
  • Aesthetic (photo essay)
  • Style (how do you hold the viewers attention.

The two major skills are 1) editing and 2) sequencing.  He recommended that photographers give their work to someone else to look out and comment on.  Often photographers are too preoccupied with what they think people see in their photographs, rather than what people actually see.

Jim shared two very different templates for a storytelling project, and the essential ingredients.  The evening was rich with anecdotes and illustrations.

We were left with the thought that everyone has a story and that you - the photographer - have to be interested in people.  Very kindly Jim left us with a good set of notes, which is available to members through this link.

We are looking forward to Jim returning in February to comment on our projects.

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