The Moment and the Narrative

Like many parents, I spend a lot of time watching my kids play sports. Both my son and daughter participated in youth basketball and ran track, and my son also plays soccer and baseball. So rather than spend game time sitting in the stands or on the sidelines nervously chewing my fingernails down to the quick, I bring along my camera and use the time to capture images of my kids and their teammates, after which I will often put together a gallery of pictures to share with the other parents.

In my effort to produce a good result I try to focus on two things: the moment and the narrative. I look for potential points of conflict amidst all the action occurring in the field of play. The series of images below represents an example of that effort. As one player approaches the ball to move it up field, I spy in my peripheral vision the defender moving in to engage, and begin shooting, hoping to capture either when the defender steals the ball or the attacker moves past.

My camera is in continuous shooting mode so I'll typically capture 4 or 5 frames at a time and within each series should be something with which I can work for the next part of my process which is finding a narrative, or story in the image. I chose the last of the series above as a final image for a couple reasons, the first of which is compositional. The postures of the players mirror each other over the center point of the ball, one player on the offensive, the other on the defensive. The players are both approximately the same distance to the ball, indicating that each has a roughly equal chance to gain possession, and finally the attacking player's outstretched arm provides a physical and compositional connection between the two of them as he attempts to fend off the defender. The second reason is based on whether or not I think a viewer familiar with only this image could construct a story about the events leading up to and the moments after this interaction. Independent of my own experience of this event, the viewer should be able to create a narrative based on their own frame of reference.

This next image, from a Tri-Metro Conference track and field meet is as bit different, as the narrative relies less on a conflict between members of two competing teams and more on the relationship between athlete, team members, and a coach and might be a better example of how multiple interactions between figures can influence the story in the image.

When reviewing the images from the meet I saw that I was lucky to have captured the moment a runner's coach and teammate vociferously encourage him to push past another competitor as a DeLaSalle teammate turns to watch. There is ample opportunity here for the viewer to construct a story around what's occurring. What are the runners thinking at this moment? Do they hear the shouts of encouragement? What was the result at the finish? What will the coach say afterward?

Capturing a moment and creating a narrative around that moment is not something exclusive to sports, yet I find that the subject provides ample opportunity for exploration of those two ideas and keeping them in mind ultimately can help produce a more interesting picture for the viewer.

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