Guest Post: Ja Lu St, Telling A Story

I recently put out a call for guest posters for the site. Ja Lu St answered! Jared is skilled and thoughtful street photographer who also lives in Melbourne. With this piece he explores how street photography can be a medium for storytelling and what techniques he uses to uncover hidden storylines in his own work.

The old saying goes a picture tells a thousand words. Its hard to capture the full story in one photograph however some of the best images capture a hint of it. A photograph tells you a lot about the person who clicked the shutter. It gives a glimpse into their view of the world, what intrigues them and what they find interesting enough to photograph. In this way all our photographs tell a story, a lot are personal or just mementos to remind us of a good night or a nice memory. Others, especially in street photography, capture the reality of the life around us and capture it essence, needing no caption.

I will explain the three steps I take to make sure my photos convey the message that intrigued me in the first place to take the photo.

Look for the extra detail

smith-street
Reading the newspaper on Smith street – Olympus OM4ti/HP5

What has caught your eye? What emotions are you feeling? Will it make a great photo?

Some wild and wonderful characters walk the streets of Melbourne waiting to be photographed. They tell the story just by looking at them, it makes you wonder who they are. Every person has a story to be told and some wear their story on their sleeve. Now this does not just have to apply to people but to objects, people etc. Look for that added detail in what is around you, for the extra layer to add to the image.

SEE:Diane Arbus – Exhibit at Heidi Gallery until the 17th of June.  

Show the whole scene

Protest
Protestors at the Melbourne Magistrates Court. – Olympus OM4ti/Delta400

Who is interacting to make the story? Who are the characters? What is their relation?

We often forget how we have witnessed the whole event, this makes it difficult to distinguish what we know about our subjects and what we have actually shown. It often leads to explaining what was not captured to give our photos more meaning. Capture all you need to convey the story, the two or more subjects interacting, show the interaction. Its common sense but often forgotten. This leads me to my next step which I use in conjunction to narrow down the composition.

SEE: Robert Doisneau

Isolate your subjects

dontleaveme
A mother and daughter – Olympus OM4ti/Delta400

Easier said than done, especially with street photography, it can be near on impossible at times, however a cleaner image with just the subject and the environment can help the eye focus upon whose story is being told. It can be easy as just moving to a different angle or in the wisdom of Robert Capa.

“If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough”

Use the surroundings to further isolate your subjects, make sure you make use of the contrast in the scene to make the subjects isolated from their background.  If all else fails, the use of a shallow depth of field is another tool to make sure the eye is drawn to the subject, just make sure you nail the focus.

SEE:Henri Cartier- Bresson

EXTRA: Its more about the pictures you don’t take

DRUNK

We have all been there, we turn a corner and an amazing scene is in front of us and just as the camera is going to your eye, it changes, its hard not to take the image in these situations. Maybe I will capture some on it, we tell ourselves. The problem is that even if the photo is okay you will have the perfect image still in your mind. Save the trouble of putting the image in the okay pile, ever to be seen again. Wait for the next time, a scene appears in front of you, have your camera ready and fill the frame with a better photo.

SEE: John Free (youtube channel with some great wisdom)

Conclusion

Help make the subjects story become clearer to your viewers, find subjects that have added detail to them, capture all the aspects but isolate them as much as you can. Finally don’t take the photo if it is not right. As you can see the three rules are very intertwined and when shooting try to use them to decide when to pull the camera to your eye.  The great thing about street photography is you never know what you will see around the next corner. Keep those eyes peeled.

Jared can be reached on @ja_lu_st on Instagram, he is one of Melbourne’s best street shooters. Join me in thanking Jared for taking the time to share with us a brief glimpse into his process, what his eye gravitates towards and how you can you can apply the same techniques. His finest work can be found on his website.

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