Areas of Photographic Practice: Circular Narrative

Areas of Photographic Practice A encourages students to develop and research notions of visual language, meaning and narrative. Students will undertake exercises which explore the concept of the visual narratives and examine how photography/the photographic image(s) can be utilised and controlled in order to relate visually descriptive and compelling narratives.

This approach, one of dynamic engagement with their subject matter and audience  will enable the student to view their work from a different perspective, as well as creating ‘added value’, substance and appeal to their work.

It follows that the contemporary photographer requires an appreciation and understanding of the importance of visual narrative, whether this pervades within a single image or as part of a series of images, which collectively form a ‘greater’ whole.

The photographer therefore needs to be reflective and conscious of the potential interpretation of their work and it’s associated latent meaning/significance as this relates to its proposed purpose, intent, meaning, reading and ultimate reception via an intended audience or client.

Areas of Photographic Practice A aims to highlight the importance of visual perception, representation and interpretation as this relates to the photographic practice whilst assisting and enhancing students understanding of the importance of visual narrative as it pertains to a set brief, assignment and/or series of intended learning outcomes.

The importance of producing work with an awareness of the context for its delivery as this relates to visual narrative and its uses will be stressed to students, both in relation to their own work/practice and that of other contemporaries and collaborators. As such students are required to reflect upon and consider final models of public display and dissemination of their final outputs.

Visual Narrative
A Narrative in any visual media is a story, or a sequence of events,  various amount of photographers are communicating  this visual narrative through their work. The thought of communication to the audience is a huge aspect of photography, why you are taking the photo and what you are trying to say. To give a Narrative to your images you are trying to connect with the audience by telling a story in one frame. Upon reading the list of practitioners we were encouraged to research I did find some particular images and photographers who had distinct concepts within their work.

Visual Narrative is the story that this visual, is trying to show without giving everything away. When a photographer decides to light a subject in a certain way or frame their images differently they are making pre-visualisation of how their work will be seen, which makes that work excel. Whenever any artist is thinking about their audience/viewer before they take the shot, or paint their picture, I feel as though they must go through a certain thought process with themselves that just run’s through an imaginary story board of their original ideas of this work.

Duane Michals

I think that up until we were shown the work of Duane Michals I really was unsure with the idea of a circular narrative but after understanding Michals’ work I begun to understand the process involved with creating a Circular Narrative, I feel that Duane Michals really is a huge influence in terms of displaying the visual narrative. Even though we are not expected to produce work of this standard if this calibre of work does not get any aspiring photographer excited and inspired then I don’t know many other photographers who can display this type of intricate thought process.

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A brilliant example of a circular narrative is this series entitled “Chance Meeting” which is quite simply a normal scene, featuring a couple of strangers passing one another which show this circular process within the narrative of making eye contact, passing, one person looking back, another looking back. To create works as strong a visual story like this would be incredibly difficult however most of Michals, all have such a high level of detail to the initial idea which is very inspirational.

Gregory Crewdson

Crewdon’s images are very high budget sets located and created for one singular image, when having the ability to create such incredibly light and framed images was extremely interesting for me to research. When hearing his name for the first time in a presentation I was stunned to see photographs of such magnitude with the entire sets, I immediately was inspired by his series called “Beneath the Roses” because even the sheer name alone suggests the dirtier, and darker side to the beauty of life. The photos taken for the series are all set in suburban and small-town America these images are often compared to movies, on the huge scale that they are taken on.


Aaron Nace

Aaron Nace has been one of my all time favourite photographers for his brilliant not only technical skills in editing his images but the idea to most of his pictures is set in this brilliant manipulated cartoonist style. Aaron’s photographs always have me looking at them in awe, because I find his lighting techniques and photoshop skills are phenomenal. In the photograph below called “You Bitch!” it shows a crazy scene in which a tragic love affair has taken place where this woman to the left of the frame seems to have came home early to find her lover with another man, smiling chaotically and shooting him out of the building, but the detail in this highly edited, composite image is tack sharp.

Screen shot 2013-10-16 at 17.28.28Aaron Nace, is a master at editing his images, he runs online free advanced Photoshop editing session and they have what made me study photoshop and learnt what I know today this website is called Phlearn. Also a feature on his website is every weekend he posts about tons of different photographers and inspirational imagery, which is really interesting to keep up to date with.

Researching Wall/Fence
When I got given the word Wall/Fence I was lost for ideas of how to create a circular narrative from something as blank as a wall but then I thought, that getting given a wall/fence to shoot isn’t so bad because it is the small detail within the images I take that will show the narrative I create. So I decided first off to bullet point my keyword “Wall/Fence”

• Boundaries
• Caged/Animals
• Safety
• Protection
• Controlled
• Graffiti/Rebellion
• Danger
• Border

These words helped me focus on a more of a serious topic that I want to shoot, with walls come protection and safety, when something isn’t going well. Then I started thinking from more of a movie point of view with maybe some pictures of fences that could look as though the viewers actions are controlled or that this view is maybe be a dangerous one. I looked into some famous fences or walls, but was just familiarised with the main walls like the Great Wall of China and also the Berlin wall which for some represents misery with its restriction. This research has given me a lot to think about for when I am taking my shots of different angles of walls/fences.

Experimental/Presentation Shots

When first going out to shoot I was really unsure of how to try and create a circular narrative with my given keyword: Wall/Fence, I started taking various angles of walls and trying to come up with a sense of a story when shooting. I found that once I was out  taking photographs I started understanding the intention and focus of my images, I started to think of the viewers interpretation of the images I was taking which made me get some ideas of how I could maybe piece together my narrative around Wall/Fence.


I took this image at first thinking that I could maybe use this picture to narrate my series of images. I initially thought that this could be my starting and ending point, because I had the mind set of taking images in a way that would show an endless journey that some person/victim in undergoing. I thought I could improve this image if I was to come back at night or on an overcast day to set the scene along with the fence itself. However after seeing the visual narrative this image is already giving seemed too simple/obvious for a starting or ending point for my circular narrative.


This picture was where I first thought to shoot wall low as if this was point of view from someone passed out or sleeping outside, however this setting does not work for a homeless person to be staying at a train station. I really like the very bright left side contrasting with the darker right, and the strong reflection of red on the door is quite enticing/intriguing.

Wall edit

When taking this image I thought that maybe with this dramatic contrast of this well lit white wall amongst the dark night sky would create a horror movie feel as something is maybe wrong with, or happening in the small office/building on the left. However once seeing this image next to some of the images I was taking earlier in the day, the visual narratives were countering one another.

Not much narrative within this picture other than the very oddly framed bin on the right of the image, maybe someone was trying to get rid of something unordinary, the low light coming in from the right also suggests a car maybe pulling up, or driving away. However yet again when placed with other images I feel the tonality of this picture didn’t fit the rest in the series.

Feedback from Presentation

Immediately after being told some very important notes from Lawrence I learnt from the session that my images need this sense of collective cohesion, and direct narrative to link them together. Before giving my presentation I did not feel as though my images tied together because I was still in the process of finding angles and my framing of these walls/fences. Now I can see that I need to give a meaning to everything within my frame, and try and create a story that could hopefully be a circular narrative.

Going away from todays presentation session I can see now that I have to come up with a full synopsis of how my narrative could unfold. I should now research into ways I can show a narrative around my keyword, Fence/Wall. I recently watched a couple of really interesting  documentaries, one called ‘Children Underground’ which follows 5 children in Romania aged 5-16 living in a railway station and the other is ‘Streetwise’ shot in 1984 documenting teens living in the streets of Seattle. These both inspired me because after seeing some of these peoples lives in detail you realise what you take for granted everyday, I am now very excited to begin shooting again after my first attempts.


act 1 – I intend to create a “day in the life of” view of what homeless people are seeing when living in the streets, at the beginning I want to show the sleeping/waking up of the character within the narrative I am trying to portray. I feel as though my images should slowly show the fast world around this persona by taking images shot low down with some slight motion blur of the vast amount of people marching by.

act 2 – I intend to show the reader my interpretation of a sense of misery and daily routine for somebody who is sleeping outside everyday, and how they survive, what they see everyday or where they go to beg or sleep. I will show a full day cycle of daily sights that this type of person would view. In the images I want to have a sense of repetition/routine so I want to take some images of garbage and trash that this person could be contemplating about scavenging.

act 3 – My pictures should all be very dull and have a cold feel to them. I want to show a strong focus on the depressing life that came come of living alone outside. I’m going to take pictures to show the time passing around these walls and the spots where the homeless try to find peace. My ending will tie back to the beginning of the story with the character going to sleep.

Research On ‘Homelessness’
I have never tried any type of project like this before, the idea of a circular narrative, at first was quite confusing but now I understand the importance of visual narrative, and when I see a homeless person in the street I see a very complicated person with their own story. I didn’t find many use in searching photographers that shoot homeless people because this isn’t what I want to show, In portraits of homeless men and women most photographers really show the detail in their face.

Homelessness has become a huge problem all across the world, in 2005 there was an estimate 100 million people living rough. In Manchester alone 91,000 children are living in poverty along with the 600,000 other homeless adults according to the Manchester Poverty Report, published on the 15th of January 2013

I found a photographer on Flickr by the name of Alessio Gaggioli who took a photograph called “From homeless point of view” and it is technically very well shot, and exposed however this long exposure gives a magical feel to the image with the colours and light leak lines, which I would not personally believe that is the kind of view point a homeless person would have daily.


I struggled finding many other photographs to inspire me to shoot because I was starting to see that this series of images seems to have not yet been a well established body of work which was great for me because that shows that there is room for me to go and create my own. So I tried to find any kind of visual sights of homeless people, when I found a POV video of a journey of a man slowly becoming homeless and dealing with life on the streets, this video had a brilliant ending and was very light hearted however some of the more depressing sights this man encounters really showed me what I am wanting to portray within my series.  Here is the video I found on vimeo by user Ryan “Buck” Ross:

Peter Funch

When first seeing the works of Peter Funch I was genuinely amazed, not only on a technical side but the ideas and presentations of his visual narratives are incredible. I researched into how he goes out and takes his large scale images and was inspired after watching this behind the scenes video of his works in Amsterdam. He talks about how he would go out to the same location as many as 10-15 days shooting people passing by so that then when goes home he can categorise the people into groups and so then he can piece together all these singular moments and put them into one image.

This series is a mix between documentary and manipulated photography by shooting repeating behaviour between a long period of time and piecing them together to create a similarity each individual in the image possesses. Now these images are taken over several weeks and would be extremely challenging and time consuming, but this series is a definite source of inspiration.


Screen shot 2013-10-21 at 16.49.26


Going out I tried to find locations where I felt homeless people may go to find shelter, or maybe where they can find free food also where they might go to try get money. Using the walls opposite from where this person would be I am attempting to show the daily sight within homelessness. I want my images all to have a dark feel to them hopefully I will show certain time passing by shooting images of people walking past.


This image I have decided to keep and possibly reedit to fit into my series for my narrative, because this was the first place I felt I found my sense of a homeless narrative. I feel that this location is a perfect one that shows the possibility of homeless people scavenging for food, so I would like this area in my series maybe a couple of times to show the time passing through this persons view. 


This image was one that I thought would certainly show some time passing with many people walking whilst I took slow shutter images and then pieced them together, but I do feel looking at this image in my set the colour tonality and focus of the image doesn’t fit. The bright colour of the little girl in the image really throws off the balance for me, because I was trying to create a sad kind of misery in this picture.

This picture I feel really fits in with how I am trying to keep the desaturation and lower camera angles of the passers by, I feel that this shows a vague sense of being ignored and just vanishing away, I took three separate images and then stitched then together in  post production. I enjoy the clarity of the pavement which is reminiscent to the structure and patterns in a ‘wall’. _MG_9041

This was another which on it’s own really holds a strong sense of this person finding comfort/refuge but once I saw this collectively with my other photographs the colours threw off the cohesion between them. When I originally took this picture with it being under this construction shelter I thought this could maybe be a spot for a homeless man/women to sleep, however with it being such a busy location it could be the opposite to somewhere comfortable for a lesser fortunate person.


When I took this picture I was very much aware of the beer bottles and I felt this could show maybe a problem in the characters life, or a chance for them to relax. I took this picture but after downloading the image I saw a very apparent reflection of me shooting this location which I had to unfortunately fully darken in Photoshop.


I found a perfect alley I felt could make the audience feel sorry for this character and make look as though someone is sleeping in the gutter, aiming my camera low to the floor and side on at the wall. The cardboard sticking up from the floor really works well, along with the plastic cup on the right thats been knocked over. When shooting this image so low down I did think it would show a sense of this person sleeping however I do feel as the camera is so low down it does not fit in with the rest of the images and is a bit blatant about the fact this person is on the floor.

Final Images







Gallery Pre-Visual
I knew before I thought about presenting this body of work that I wanted it in a line, even before I knew how many images I was to take. When I decided to try and use an online 3D gallery with my images I tried out a couple of programmes like or, but both were much more hassle to set up than the programme I decided to use called ‘VAS – Visual Art Space’ which I had found and created this professional, virtual gallery within minutes.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 12.14.01

I decided to hang my images from left to right as soon as you enter to complement the reader’s natural gaze. By having taken 6 images but then having a repeated print of one of them, I was left with the dilema of how to present my odd number of 7 photographs, however I felt as though the end two images should be on a separate wall because the last 2 images fit brilliantly together away from the other 5 large images in a row.

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When choosing the layout of which image was to be presented where, I decided to start with a dull setting, and then panning across the wall the time passes and shows a duller view coming into the corner of the room, then ending with the start of my narrative.

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