Storytelling lies at the heart of what many working photographers do, whether we’re telling our own stories or those of others. While new technologies have in many ways democratised their dissemination and consumption, it isn’t clear that this has resulted in greater public engagement with the stories beneath the images. In news and documentary circles the sheer volume of images in circulation has arguably further pushed some photojournalists to seek out gritty, visceral images that stand out among the crowd, but which in many cases leave important stories only half-told. And elsewhere, ordinary people beyond our community continue to feel that photography, film and art are not ‘for them’.
For our May talk, Photo-Forum welcomes two speakers working in strikingly different styles and mediums, but connected by their efforts to find more effective ways to tell stories and engage new audiences with their work. Together, they ask what is more important: the ‘truth’ of the image or the effect it has on those who see it?
Benjamin Chesterton is a former dishwasher, cook, teacher and BBC Radio documentary producer. In 2008 he co-founded the company duckrabit with a view to marrying his passion for telling peoples stories with his love of photography. The company has evolved into making films and has worked on photography and film projects with MSF in the Congo, Oxfam in Zimbabwe, the HIV Aids Alliance in Uganda, and on BBC documentaries presented by photographers in Sweden, Papua New Guinea and Lebanon. Benjamin is currently working on a series of films about extremism.
Eleanor Macnair lives and works in London. She began her career working in fashion advertising in New York before working at Michael Hoppen Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, Media Space and White Cube, amongst others. She began the project ‘Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh’ on a whim in August 2013. The project bridges the art and photography world with non-specialist audiences. A book of the project was published in October 2014, and it was first exhibited at Atlas Gallery (London) in October 2015, followed by exhibitions at Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs (Germany) and Kopeikin Gallery (USA) in Spring 2016. A display of new works drawn from the gallery’s collection opens at the National Portrait Gallery from 15 May.