November 18, 2012
Story Spark #4: Stories Behind Photos
The invention of photography in 1839 was one of the greatest innovations in the making of memory. The way a photo captures a fleeting moment makes it a far more potent means to trigger memory than a film or video clip because they impose their own temporality on the viewer. By creating exact replicas, photos have an authenticity that can't be achieved in other media. Rather like our own conscious memory, they are fragmentary records of the past.
When we view photos from our own past, we know far more about the event shown in that millisecond of time. We know the background behind the moment that was captured on film. And that is where the stories are!
I found a wonderful book full of background stories like this, and I so wish I could remember the title or author. The book was full of the author's paintings that were recreated from her family's old photo albums. She then added her own memories about what was happening behind the scenes. Here's one of the pages I copied from the book:
Try using this same idea to spark your own stories. Get creative in your presentation!
1) Find a family photo that triggers some emotional memory when you look at it. Scan the photo and print out an enlarged copy.
2) Attach the enlarged photo to a piece of blank paper and start jotting down your own memories of the story "behind the picture."
3) Ask yourself a few questions: What was the emotional atmosphere when the photo was taken? What are the unspoken things you know about this situation or the people in the photo? What's your personal take on the situation? If it's an old photo, what was your take on the situation as a child? Who are the people "unseen" in the photo—i.e. who's taking the photo? What was their relationship to the people in the photo?
4) Take 20 minutes and use the information that arises to write a one- or two-page story based on the photograph.
photo credit: John Kratz via photopin cc