Photographic Tales: Session 2 – Ekphrastic Writing

Ekphrastic writing is a method of visual description. Created by the Greeks, it is the oldest type of writing about art in the West. It makes the experience entirely immersive, intended to affect the reader in a whole new light, rather than just the ordinary touch and go feelings we may experience with smaller pieces of writing.

Jan Greenberg once said “the power of art to inspire language”, expanding; “what the poet sees in art and puts into words can transform and image”. I really transpire with this theory because a pictures speaks a thousand words. This allows the reader to engage with the creator on a new level, allowing them to connect deeper as if they share the same view.

The task:

This session was all about creative writing and allowing us to engage with the idea of Ekphrastic writing ourselves. Louise first showed us a TedTalk of Tracy Chevalier, author of ‘Girl With The Pearl Earring’. She spoke about her inspirations and her artistic approach; she goes to an art gallery > chooses the piece of art that attracts her attention and focuses on it, ignoring everything else > narrates a story about it. She looks at the deeper meaning, beyond the surface and builds a narrative about the subject/how they got there/why they were there and so forth.

Tracy looks at the deeper meaning. The story behind your natural assumption. We all jump to conclusions but she thinks about it historically, methodically and logically. This is something that could be practiced more within graphic design, rather that just having an aesthetically pleasing piece of art work. Somebody in our session said something rather interesting in relation to her process; “Her process is similar to light room. You take your images, sort through them and flag the ones you like.”‘. I guess this is the 21st century translation of her method.

If you tell too much, you shut the viewer down. They see them lose interest. you have to equal the story to visual story ratio.

Flexing muscles:

IMG_5669.JPGWe were then shown a photograph and asked ‘How much do you really see? Details? Actions? Expressions? Clothing? Gestures? Faces?’ We were to create a detail list. “The devil is in the detail.” Louise did this to put theory into practice. She gave us absolutely no detail alongside the picture, allowing us to come to our own conclusions based on our list. Here’s what I jotted down:

mixed expression. hand gestures. mixed genders. unknown. black & white. fear. line of children. happiness. school children. hand holding. support. uniform. officers linked. white socks. guards protecting children. badges. stripes. looking. crowd. tight. talking.

My natural assumption was that the image was taken in Nazi Germany and that the crowd was gathered to see the dictator himself. Children at the front to show how ‘caring’ he was (I call bullshit) and his onlookers swarming just to say they saw him. With this in mind, this is what I wrote:

“guards protecting children,

a school trip the see their “great leader”

holding hands through support

are they scared? a fear of him?

or are they nervous to come face-to-face with their ‘powerful leader’

A crowd behind them,

elated by the thought of seeing him

if only for a second.

Children a the front,

to make him look friendly

after all, one whom is kind to children cannot be a bad person, right?

or at least,

that’s what he’s trying to disguise.

He is kind to his own,

his master race.

children that are Jewish are not children,

they are ‘lice’

a mix of fear and elation

for a split second view

those children in a school uniform will age

only to swap their school attire for a heavy conscious

weighed down by their history

by what their ‘powerful leader’ attributed to their country”

I’m no writer, nor have I ever claimed to be one. So this for me was a new experience, one I can learn from. It was good to tell a story form a judgement. You let your imagination revel in detail, even if you only use a few.

The collective unconcious – Freud. Depending what the culture we live in, we jump to the same conclusion. We respond similarly as we have common buried link, usually that we have been taught. This is an interesting concept as a lot of individuals in our group, myself included, preconceived that this image was of Nazi Germany when, in fact, it was taken in the US at a presidential march.

Image crit:

Last week we were asked to take pictures (linked in my previous post) and this week we spoke about them in a group crit. It was interesting as we went around and whomever’s piece was being discussed they were not allowed to speak until everybody had given their opinion/thoughts. One of my pictures in particular proved rather popular; the camper van. The group all agreed that they liked the composition of the shot and how it had a retro vibe to it which, in all honesty, my favourite thing about it too. I discussed why I had taken it and how, and the group all responded positively to my piece which was humbling. Coming into a new discipline and being told that your image is one of the tutors favourites is settling to me, it’s nice to be on the right track.

In regards to others images, they were all strong. Some of my personal were the film students as they understand how to capture a moment and their  images really portrayed that. They were naturally good at finding that correct moment and a lot of their imagery you would see in a gallery.

my image: Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 19.37.59

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Betsy

First year studying Graphic Design at Plymouth College of Art.

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