Can you write a narrative?
This may seem like a silly question, but unfortunately whilst looking at some photographers websites I realised that many do not know how to. A narrative is one of the most important elements that coincide with your visual work. It is the written account of what your work is about and what took place, if you mess that up then you've basically messed up your entire project. A narrative is so important to the point where a well written descriptive narrative can enhance a project where the images are visually not that strong. Why then are many people getting it wrong when it comes to writing about their work?
One of the reasons why people fail epically at writing about their work is because they did not get the structure right! Like almost everything in life, there is a certain formula leading to its correct outcome, and this is exactly the same with writing! Writing a narrative is like writing a story, a story consists of these components; a beginning, a middle and an end. Let's look at how this works in regards to writing a narrative:
Beginning: What is your project about?
Middle: What inspired you to make the project and why is it important?
End: What do you hope to achieve through this project? What were the end results?
Here is an example of a narrative that I wrote for one of my projects 'Overqualified' following the 'beginning' 'middle' and 'end' formula :
'Overqualified’ is a project which focuses on the issues of overqualified migrant workers within the UK.
Many migrant workers have obtained a qualification of some sort in their home countries, and out of a desire for a better life for them and their families, they usually end up migrating to the UK. Unfortunately for some, the inability to convert their certificate or a language barrier leads them to end up working in a job which is below their skillset.
This project aims to bring attention to a topic which is rather hidden, allowing people who are in this situation to speak out and give their own account of the situation that they are in alongside potential ways for others to avoid being in the same situation.
This project was exhibited at the London College of Communication in May 2019 and comprises of still images and multimedia which contains more information about the subjects and the work that they do.
What not to do when writing about your work...
Writing a narrative is quite simple, we are the ones who complicate it! Here are some mistakes that you should avoid making when writing about your work;
Being ambiguous: Don't be ambiguous, the person reading your narrative cannot read your mind and you should not be leaving it to them to guess what your work is about! Be as detailed as possible, make life easier for the viewer so that they can focus on enjoying your images and not wracking their brains on what the message is that you are trying the pass across (unless being ambiguous is your style...)
Writing an essay or a sentence: The average attention span of an adult is approximately 8 seconds, avoid losing it by writing a long essay! That being said, don't go to the other extreme and only write a sentence. Be as detailed but concise as possible.
Thinking that big words will make you look smarter: Please don't confuse or bore your viewers with large vocabulary! Again, your narrative is not an academic research essay, it is a description of your work, keep it comprehensive.
Read books and improve your vocabulary!
One last point that I could not end without mentioning is the importance of reading. Now, without sounding contradictory to my last point of avoiding 'big words', I have read narratives with very basic vocabulary and grammatical errors, which did not impress me at all. One of the major ways to explore a wider scope of vocabulary and improve on things such as grammar and the use of punctuation is by reading! I am a true geek when it comes to reading and believe at least 2o minutes a day of reading an academic book, credible news article, research papers or a novel will definitely help to improve your writing. There are also loads of free resources available online aimed at helping to improve ones writing.
Practice makes perfect so get writing!
You don't become an expert at something overnight, but the more you practice the better your narratives will turn out, so get writing!