Many photographers call themselves storytellers. I don’t. A story has a beginning, a middle and an end. There is a protagonist, human or not, and there is conflict. If you take all this, you have a story. But it’s impossible to put all that into one photo. Therefore, one single photo can never tell a story, only a scene at best.
If you make a series of photos that show some sort of cohesion, there can be a story. Although the question is whether everyone reads the same story in it. Images are open to more interpretation than words.
I had to think about this after I took the photo above. Someone thought it was a classic case of storytelling.
You can make up a story if you look at it, that’s true. The photo itself shows only one thing: two people kissing on the platform at Brussels Central Station. You can read a goodbye in it. But also a meeting after a long separation. Are the two partners? Secret lovers? Or – a dirty mind is a joy forever – brother and sister with an incestuous relationship? Is she perhaps a Russian spy trying to pick a microfilm from between the teeth of an American double agent? Or is it a sneakers commercial?
What happens next? Does he push her onto the tracks when an incoming train arrives? By the way, is that Brussels Central sign real or is it from a film company’s props department? Are we in Budapest instead of Brussels?
For me, this was a beautiful moment. There was a suggestion of love and warmth, a hint of nostalgia hung over the scene, and the setting was cinematic. That’s why I clicked. Emotion and aesthetics. I don’t need a story to enjoy a photograph.