What's the Back Story?

One of the talks I give is a 'lottery lecture'.  I ask members of the audience to pick a tag from a bag which corresponds to one of the photographs I have with me.  I then spend a few minutes talking about the image they have picked, and particularly telling the back story of the picture.  In some cases it's about the subject of the picture, or what was involved in taking the picture or getting to the location. In other cases it's about the geography or history of the place, or (given that many of my images are from cold remote places) how those places are changing as the climate changes.

On lots of occasions these back stories are what people seem to take away from the presentation - and the stories do regularly provoke interesting questions and discussions.  One of the reasons that I am so enthusiastic about this sort of presentation is probably related to the fact that the backstory is what I look for when I'm looking at someone else's pictures.

Over the last few days I've had the chance to look at two parts of a fantastic exhibition of the work of Don McCullin, best known as a war photographer.  Before I go any further, I'm absolutely not putting myself anywhere near this league of photographer.  However, as I looked around the images on show in Fallen, I did start to wonder what the back story was to some of the images, and particularly some of the people in the images that McCullin had taken. I found it nearly impossible not to try and speculate about what had happened to the shell-shocked US soldiers in Vietnam or to the Cypriot villagers in the 1960s or (closer to home) the stone-throwing kids in Londonderry/Derry in the early 1970s.   Perhaps that's the power of a really strong people-picture.  It makes you think about what happened to the people both before and after the moment when the shutter was pressed.

If you happen to be on Shetland anytime before 22 February, do find time to get to either the Museum in Lerwick and/or the Bonhoga Gallery at Weisdale where the two parts of the exhibition Fallen are on show.  There's a huge amount to think about.

At the moment I'm trying capture the backstories that go with some of the images I've taken over the last five years. It won't be finished for this Christmas, but it might make it into print for next year.

If you'd like to invite me to give one of my 'Lottery Lectures', do get in touch ross@northsouthimages.co.uk

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