Image by gunnsteinlye via Flickr
When I tell a story, there is a distinct “movie” going through my head and the words are an attempt to express that “movie” in such a way that others can appreciate the story the same way I do. That covers the written narrative and some kind of multi-media or video representation of it. What about “static media” like graphics, paintings or illustrations?
Ryan’s quote, “The image is not a way of telling the tale, but of evoking it,” hides a lot behind the idea of evocation. The human imagination is fertile beyond description. There is a reason that the truism, “A picture is worth a thousand words” continues to be a favorite, however over-used. A single picture allows the imagination to work its magic. Even in conjunction with some kind of minimal story to “connect the dots” between seemingly disparate pictures, the imagination can create a rich narrative.
Can a single picture create a narrative? According to the readings we had this week, not really. However, that question creates an artificial barrier between the picture and the person looking at it. There is no real picture if no one looks at it (apologies to any number of philosophers, but THAT is another post altogether…). This is the more hidden agenda of evocation. While some modern and post-modern art and graphics can stretch the abilities of imagination to create some kind of story from them, even something as apparently abstract as an orbital shot of the landscape of Mars can trigger imagination. My mind immediately tries to create a context of some kind. I imagine a desert. I imagine the silence. I imagine the feel of the sand blowing past my arms, how it stings. How did I get there? What am I doing? The human mind can do even more with less abstract visuals.
Using visuals can set the stage for a story, enforce a tone or point-of-view, provide focus on or distance focus from a character. This is something that mirrors illustrations in books and printed content for centuries. It provides a level of familiarity for a number of web consumers, and can provide interesting structures and imposed limitations to a storyteller (remember, web storytelling was static before it became multi-media). Pictures provide another way to direct the narrative stream and take advantage of the creative mind.
They also don’t necessarily require batteries….