I snapped this during my last Pedestrian Sunday outing at Kensington Market. It was a shot from my day of talking to strangers I’d normally not bother with. My experience is when you come across a group of street people hanging out, there’s always one in the crowd who wants to impress his/her friends by telling you to fuck off when you approach for a photo. And the larger the group, the more likely you’ll be told where to go.
In this case there was maybe five people in this group. I walked up and offered to feed their change can if they allowed me to take a shot. They were all quite nice about it. I started talking to the couple of they told me they’d just arrived from Vancouver. When I started photographing them, they began to make out, which was rather funny. I thought it worked well.
What I really like about this shot is the story it suggests leaves little to the imagination. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think photographs tell stories, for the most part.
Instead, good images usually elicit an emotional response of some sort. They also tend to be somewhat ambiguous and it’s that ambiguity that sparks the imagination and invites the viewer to create their own story. So basically, you end up with two stories, the one from the point of view of the photographer who was there and the one that the viewer of the image creates to try to resolve the ambiguity of the image. But the image itself, even with photojournalism, does not actually “tell” a story. It merely suggests possibilities, like an open ended sentence. The viewer writes the story, and often the story they write is not what’s actually happening in the photograph.
But that’s okay. Good photographs spark the imagination. Poor photographs are usually not worth a seconds glance, because they lack a compelling reason to engage your imagination.
I should qualify this by saying I’m talking about a single image, not a series of images that make up a photo essay. Photo essays do lead the viewer down a path that tells a story (hopefully). Anyway, that’s my take on it. I’m working on an article titled Picture Don’t Tell Stories, where I expand on this idea.