Photography as Visual Storytelling

March 23, 2012


Anthony Bannon, Billy Collins, and Ed Kashi discuss a photograph's ability to weave stories without words. (Photo by David Noe)

During a three-day symposium of presentations on March 20 through 22, the Winter Park Institute featured the perspectives and work of renowned photographic historian and theorist Anthony Bannon and celebrated photojournalist, filmmaker, and educator Ed Kashi. During their brief tenure at Rollins, the visiting scholars-in-residence explored the great power of photography as an art form and story-telling device.

During the first event titled "The Photograph As Icon: A Powerful Way of Seeing," Bannon discussed how, since the visual media’s inception, the photograph has wielded a powerful double nature to either depict the truth or present false perceptions of reality. “It is important to see how life has been captured and altered by the medium since the ‘big bang of photography,’ so that we can come to grips with the consequences of how images are used,” Bannon said. “With the accelerating proliferation of cameras and photography, now is the time to thoughtfully create a theory for the moral and ethical practice of photographic media.”

Accompanying Bannon’s presentation was a slideshow of selected iconic images from the Eastman House of Photography and Film, where he serves as director.

The following evening, Bannon, along with Kashi and Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute Billy Collins, discussed the study, practice, and power of photography in an event titled "Writing With Light: An Evening Conversation About Photography and Poetry." The informal, wide-ranging talk touched on the topics of the intrusive and intimidating act of shooting pictures, the ethics of photographic selection, and characterization. Sharing photos and videos, Kashi explained how each photo has a story and shared several humorous ones behind the work he presented. “I’m a curious person and my job takes me all over the world to learn about people, culture, and life,” Kashi said. “That’s what is so exciting about this work. I am constantly wanting to connect with people, and that is the driving force in my career.”

“My reaction to the photos is that I personally lead a very dull life,” said Collins, who read two self-penned poems about photography.

In a master class co-taught by Bannon and Kashi, students had the opportunity to engage the visiting scholars in discussion on the practical and theoretical aspects of pursuing a career in photojournalism. In response to being asked what aspiring photojournalists could do right now to prepare for a career in the field, Kashi commented that the foundations on which he established his career are crumbling. “Even though the future of the profession is uncertain, there will never be a lack of human desire for good stories. However, the training of a photojournalist doesn’t happen in the classroom,” Kashi said. “Photographers learn the most by pursuing the stories that interest both themselves and their audience and spending a lot of time in the field with their subjects to develop the story. Dream big, but dream doable.”

The final event of the symposium titled "Far-Flung Places: Photographs from the Corners of the World" allowed Kashi to delve into the techniques and motivations that have allowed him to tell the stories of underrepresented people, groups, and cultures in distressed and dangerous places across the globe. “It’s not enough to simply document the ills of the world because the audience will just tune it out,” Kashi said. “My unyielding goal is to have my work be part of a movement to make the world a better place. Much like music, photography is a universal language and powerful imagery that can influence and inspire people to make a difference. If my work can change even one mind, I have succeeded.”

The Winter Park Institute will conclude the 2011-12 season with world-renowned conservationist Jane Goodall on Thursday, April 19. For more information, please visit the Winter Park Institute.

By Justin Braun

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Copyright © 2012 Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789  407.646.2000

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