The story

Paris - Place du Tertre   Fujifilm X100S © 2017 Miguel Witte

Paris - Place du Tertre

Fujifilm X100S © 2017 Miguel Witte

There is that famous quote saying that “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved…”  (Ansel Adams)

For my part I can say that I am very much into reading books and that being exposed to the structure of a fictional or non fictional text has sharpened my awareness for the story-tellling features a good photograph can have. 

Some years ago I enjoyed reading “Changing Places”, the engaging and funny book from David Lodge about two professors of literature from the UK and the US, temporarily changing their respective posts at their universities and, as the action unfolds, as well as their spouses. When I recently came across the sequel “Small World” I went directly for it. At one point, David Lodge, a consumed writer, brings Morris and Philip, the two main characters, for a conversation together and it goes as follows:

“But this intensity of experience, did you never find it again since you were in America?”

Philip stared into the bottom of his glass. “Once I dit,” he said. “Shall I tell you the story?”

“Just let me get myself a cigar. Is this a cigarillo story or a panatella story?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never told it to anyone before.”

“I’m honoured,” said Morris. “This calls for something special.” … “I’m listening”

“It happened some years ago, in Italy,” Philip began. “ it was the very first lecture tour I did for the British Council. I flew out to Naples, and then worked my way up at Genoa. It was a bit of a rush on the last day. I gave my lecture in the afternoon, and I was hooked to fly home the same evening. The Council chap in Genoa, who’d been shepherding me about the place, gave me an early dinner in a restaurant, and then drove me out to the airport. There was a delay in the flight departure -  a technical problem, they said, so I told him no to wait. I knew he had to get up early the next morning to drive to Milan for a meeting. That comes into the story.”

“I should hope so,” said Morris. “There should be nothing irrelevant in a good story.”

“Anyway, the British Council man, J.K. Simpson, I can’t remember his first name, a nice young chap, very friendly, enthusiastic about his job, he said, ‘Ok, I’ll leave you then, but if the flight is cancelled, give me a ring and I’ll get you into a hotel for the night’

“Well, the delay went on and on, but eventually we took off, at about midnight. It was a British plane. I was sitting next to an English businessman, a salesman in woolen textiles I think he was…”

“Is that relevant?”

“Not really.”

“Never mind. Solidity of specification,” said Morris with a tolerant wave of his cigar. “It contributes to the reality effect”

— David Lodge “Small World”, (PAGE 67); Vintage Books; London, 2011

The following sentences from the above quote remained in my head:

“That comes into the story.”

“I should hope so,” said Morris. There should be nothing irrelevant in a good story.”


“Is that relevant?”

“Not really.”

“Never mind. Solidity of specification. It contributes to the reality effect.”

Photography is of course also a kind of storytelling with it’s own requirements and dynamics for composition and therefore I found these sentences very inspiring in that I think about them as useful guidelines for composing a photograph as a one page story, realistic, hopefully with nothing irrelevant although occasionally some less relevant elements if only for context or solidity of specification.


Paris, Place du Tertre: Wikipedia-article: Place du Tertre

David Lodge: Wikipedia-article: David Lodge

David Lodge: Wikipedia-article: David Lodge - Small World

Miguel Witte