Insomnia series – how narrative?


Phone Conversation from the series Insomnia – Hotel Noir  photography by Douglas Stockdale

With the recent comment from Anita regarding my recently revised photograph from Insomnia, she stated that the photographs were less ambiguous and more narrative. Hmmm, did I really mean that to happen?

A narrative quality would seem very relevant to a story, .e.g a story line.  If I liken my series to a story in a similar manner as Titarenko and Fleuret‘s recent books, then it would seem relevant to want to create some kind of narrative quality to the sequencing of the photographs and subsequently the book’s design.  I should decide whose voice is providing the narrative, eh? With Titarenko, it was his own narrative interpreting his experiences in St. Petersburg, while Fleuret is striving for a narrative to be constructed by the reader with some visual clues he provides, like a Dadist exercise. So if I think of this series as a story, I need to consider the narrative qualities.

Likewise, the amount of ambiguity could make the series either harder or easier or perhaps, more interesting. I might create a very obscure story line, one that is harder to comprehend, perhaps because of unclear intent or weak structure. It also seems that some obscurity could help establish more mystery if that intent was supported by a good design and an appropriate flow of images. Thus I need to consider just how much ambiguity that I  introduce, and my purpose in doing so. Does it support or detract from the story line?

But that then begs the questions, just what the heck is my purpose in developing this series? And not to duck the question with an easy pass-off of that I was “just inspired” to do this.  If I don’t understand my intent, I suspect that my results may be less than stellar. Okay, even if I know my intent, it could still end up less than stellar. To know my intent also means that I don’t have to nail down this series in such a obvious black and white definition that I take all of the life out of it. Which is a risk I take in discussing it here.

The series did slowly evolve as I continued to photograph it.  First I was documenting my travel days on the road, almost like a photo of the day project. As I continued to work on this series of photographs,  I realized that I wanted to dig in and attempt to visually investigate my experiences. Concurrently, I was in the middle of my series In Passing, and my introspective feelings on that series also affected this series. 

I just wanted to get a visualization of my  feelings of detachment, separation anxiety, loneliness and sadness that occasionally came with my extensive travel. It is not a memoir, although it does have autobiographical elements, I want to create the experiences. You don’t have to go mad to be able to write about madness, eh?

So I am tying to create a series, that althought I feel that I understand some aspects of, that the reader can relate to and can make it their own story. So somewhere between the interpretative factual events of Titarenko and the abstract story line of Fleuret. But the concept of a story line that they worked with has become very appealing and one that has re-energized my feelings about the body of work that I created for the series Insomnia.

And so I take note of my developing narrative, analyzing the elements of the photographs to maintain a medium level of ambiguity and abstraction, with a whisper of mystery.

Best regards, Doug

6 thoughts on “Insomnia series – how narrative?

Add yours

  1. I see a series of images that capture those ephemeral moments that happen when we are away from home. I can relate to them but can’t say that I’ve ever given them any thought. Parts of my life just having evaporated without a trace.

  2. I can fully agree, there are vast durations that are gone, I was just mindlessly passing through…but I am surprised about some of my lingering memories.

  3. Hey, Doug. I’m very much interested to see this series, as I’m living somewhat of the same type of life. Mine is not extensive travel, so to speak, or maybe it is. I’m away from home all week, then back on the weekend. It has it’s own set of issues. I’ve been thinking about documenting it myself as something to look back upon. At least though, I have the same 2 locations to travel between and am not in some anonymous hotel, thankfully.

  4. Paul, You probably do encounter some of the same issues of issolation from the family, missing some in-between family events and the like. Guessing that the issues are different but similar. I hope that this inspires you to take work on your own introspective series, maybe a potential idea for SoFoBoMo?

  5. Doug, I suppose that it could be a potential SoFoBoMo idea, but I think that I’d like to work on it over the long run. I need to start carrying my camera in the front seat with me on my travels and stop here and there and take some of the travel pictures. Perhaps some of the traffic, the Chick-Fil-A that I usually stop at, etc. I wrote a post this evening about it, after reading your post.

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