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Stories Instead of Snaps

June 20, 2012
TEOE Arizona / Alberta exchange project

TEOE Arizona / Alberta exchange project team

I’m pleased to announce that on Saturday, July 14th, I’ll be co-presenting on the topic of “Travel Photography: Stories Instead of Snaps” with photographers Peter Carroll, Colleen Miniuk-Sperry and Ken Ross. The presentation will run from 1:00 – 3:00 PM at the Calgary seminar location of The Camera Store. You can book tickets to the event through their site. You can also go to the TCS blog to learn more about the presentation and us presenters.

What’s a snapshot? You can look up a dictionary definition, but I think of it as a image that I don’t think a lot about when I take it, and that not many others think much about when they see it — if anyone actually ever does see it. A snapshot often has relevance only to the person who took it, or to a few people immediately pictured within it or connected directly to the photographer. But just as often, snapshots have little relevance to anyone because the snaps sit in the equivalent of a shoe-box, collecting dust.

Okay then, what’s a story? This word is a bit more multi-faceted. I’ll say, for the purposes of photography, it’s a considered, visual account that provides an engaging narrative about something that the creator and viewers care about. Often the photographic story has much broader relevance than just to the photographer and people he or she personally knows. By definition there is an audience involved, because a story only really lives and has purpose when it’s told. A photographic story is not something that sits in a shoe-box collecting dust.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking snapshots; I do it myself. But there’s more to great photography, and telling a story can be a really energizing creative challenge. I won’t steal much of the thunder from what we plan to cover at the presentation. But to give you a taste of what we’d like to share, here are some of the key talking points that I’ll cover:

  • Equipment: Less is more, just shoot what you bring. Choose it for style & circumstances. Learn to use it instinctively.
  • Better Pictures: Now forget the equipment. Make better photographs by intensely concentrating on subject, composition and light.
  • Better Stories: Follow your passion; tell your story, not just some story, and tell it to someone. Go past the obvious, find the essence through research, response and persistence. Put the human interest in place by looking at people, their places and pursuits.

So, what’s the motive for this presentation? Well, Pete, Colleen, Ken and I are the photography team for this year’s international photography exchange project for the group Through Each Others Eyes (TEOE), which I’ve mentioned before. The TEOE organization began in Phoenix in 1988 as an outreach program within the Phoenix Sister Cities Commission; TEOE later spun out as an independent group and attained non-profit organization status in the United States in 1999.

TEOE’s aim is to help people from different cultures better understand and appreciate each other using the visual art form of photography to present aspects of culture through the eyes of insiders and outsiders. This is accomplished in several ways, including photography exhibits each year in paired exchange cities, as well as education and community outreach events. To date, TEOE exchanges have resulted in over 150 exhibits in 9 countries on 3 continents.

Even though Calgary and Phoenix are, in fact, sister cities, this is the first time the two will be paired in a TEOE project. Pete and I are very honored to be representing Alberta. In this project, we aim to gain a new view of our home stomping grounds as we photograph in the field with Arizonans Colleen & Ken. It will also be exciting to bring our eyes to their home region of Arizona. Many Albertans have an affinity for Arizona thanks to the snowbird effect, as well as economic and other ties between the regions. We feel there are many visual comparisons & contrasts waiting to be drawn, and we hope to be able to do just that through the exhibits that result from our field work together.

Thanks to the great team at The Camera Store for enabling our first public presentation related to the project! If you’re in the Calgary area on July 14th, I hope you’ll come and spend a couple of hours with us at Travel Photography: Stories Instead of Snaps!

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