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Concept and Story

Any type of photograph has the potential to be a visual metaphor or a symbol for concepts, themes, and ideas. And the framed structure of an image, as well as the ability to work in sequences, have the potential to set up a story. The instant of the photograph may suggest something that has just happened or hint at something that might be about to happen. Sequences of photos work like individual chapters or poems, smaller pieces of a greater narrative.

Multi-image composites are well suited for creating stories because you can create the scene from scratch. Making a composite has a lot in common with setting up the scenery and staging for a theater play or constructing a set piece for a movie. Therefore you should pay attention to the possibility for stories or narratives in your collages. The images that are the most interesting are those that engage the viewer with a concept, a story, interesting characters, or fantastic circumstances playing out on the stage of your composite.

Great Visuals in Search of a Story

Once you know a few basic skills and techniques, it’s easy to put different objects and photos together in a new collage in Photoshop. And even though the different elements might look cool together, always be on the lookout for a way to create a more powerful visual hook for the viewer. For some images, it might be best to hold them in reserve until a better use for them presents itself. Consider the image in Figure 12.57, a surreal scene of a majestic theater stage in a stark and rocky desert. It certainly looks cool, not to mention a bit strange, but other than that there’s not much going on here. Seán regards this as an unfinished composite, or an element to be used in another composite. As good as it looks now, it needs something more. It needs a story.

Figure 12.57

Figure 12.57. Theater in the desert; it looks good but lacks a story. For now it is an unfinished composite, or a possible element for another collage.© SD

The Human Element

In many cases, creating a story for a composite might involve adding people, or the trace of people, to a scene. When we see people or evidence of their presence, we project ourselves into the scene. This creates a deeper connection between the viewer and the image. By suggesting a story, or hinting at events in the composite, you are inviting the viewer to enter your narrative, pick up the loose thread of the tale, and follow it to see where it leads (Figure 12.58).

Figure 12.58

Figure 12.58. “The Lighthouse Door.” The location of the door is a puzzle, suggesting a tunnel leading under the surf to reach the lighthouse. Who is out there on this stormy afternoon?© SD

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