Under the water

“There is already an established photographic practice which uses pictures in sequence:the reportage photo-story. These certainly narrate, but they narrate descriptively from the outsider’s point of view. A magazine sends photographer X to city Y to bring back pictures…But the story told is finally about what the photographer saw at Y. It is not directly about the experience of those living the event in Y. To speak of their experience with images it would be necessary to introduce pictures of other events and places…”

John Berger – Another Way of Telling

I read this recently and it made concrete ideas which had been forming for some time. I’ve made photo stories of people and various clubs/organisations in my local area for a few years, but they will always fall short of being a truthful account as they are merely my perspective on an event, which would be fine were it not for the fact that more is expected of photography than of other creative acts. A poem is not expected to be truthful, neither a painting. Photography, however, with its ability to quote from real life, as opposed to describe it, is held to a different set of rules.

I also make images around my home which could loosely be termed as being in the photo journalistic tradition. But what images would be needed to fill in the holes of the stories I tell? Or, what unexpected images would be needed to tell my side of a story, but to any other observer would be completely irrelevant? My daughters and I spend a lot of time at the pool. It’s painless, guilt free fun, which comes with health bonuses. Perfect for the exhausted parent. And I have images which would make a story of our time at the pool. An outsized swim bag around a three year old’s neck. Happy, wet faces and close ups of cute water toys. Steamed over goggles and ice cream covered grins. But just as crucial for me would be the image below of me in my back yard from three years ago. It’s the first image made of me after the suicide of my oldest friend. It’s required for my story because the sights,sounds and smells of swimming pools here in NZ are a strong connection back to my childhood days and country of birth. Taking my own children swimming has always evoked memories of swimming with my friend, or has calmed me when I recall the order and regularity of my childhood and compare it with the less structured life I life now. It’s Tuesday. It’s 5.00. It’s swimming day.

So a story about my swims would contain all the expected images, plus ones which reference my experience, my inner monologue, whilst I am in the water. Images which reflect a friendship gone but the memory of which still bring happiness and comfort.



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