Art + Design

From the Design Desk: Story Telling Through Photographs

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Photography is an integral part of book design for a reason. It can tell stories, illustrate abstract ideas, and transport the reader. Good photos, whether in books, magazines, websites, or slide shows can be full of narrative and intrigue. We wrote recently about some moving and inspiring photo projects. Here are a few more we enjoy.

Pictory showcases various “features” that are essentially thematic photo essays, made up of photos submitted to the site by visitors. Recent features include London, Wanderlust Spring Fever, Neighborhood Treasures, and the romantic The One Who Got Away. Each photo is accompanied by a little explanatory story written by its photographer, along with his/her name and a short bio. It’s great to get the context for the significance of each beautiful and often mysterious photo.

My Mom, the Style Icon is a very different kind of photo project. It’s single-themed, but it also relies on photo submissions and stories to go with them. It’s really entertaining to read the back-story on these often quirky and always stylish, nostalgia-filled photos and the women highlighted in them. Submit a photo of your own mom and there’s a chance it could make it onto the site, or even into the book version, which we’re publishing next year.

Speaking of fashion, we can’t overlook The Sartorialist. Here’s a story of one man’s casual photo project turning into a hugely influential and popular website. The Sartorialist features fashionable street portraits from around the world—glamourous, antique photos and mini-photo collections. They’re often accompanied by a few words regarding where the photo was taken, the story behind it, and why it’s intriguing.

If the Sartorialist had a counterpart, it would have to be Bill Cunningham, who shoots the On the Street fashion photo essays for The New York Times. His are casual snapshots of elegant, fashionable, creative people in New York and Paris. They also tell a little story about what’s going on in that city, be it the arrival of spring, a growing penchant for bicycles, or the challenges of having to navigate dirty slushy snow. Cunningham’s narration adds a whole new layer of entertainment. The audio slide show version often includes a few chuckles from him when he is utterly delighted by people’s sense of fun, creativity, and the unexpected. Look out for the recent documentary made about Cunningham.

If you have any photo projects you enjoy, be it a blog, magazine feature, website, or whatnot, please share them with us in the comments section. Since a picture is not just a picture, we imagine that there are lots and lots more stories to be told.

Suzanne LaGasa
Designer

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