Ever watched a movie when in the first few minutes you had no idea what was going on? It felt like the movie started from the middle of nowhere. Then as the story unfolded, as the protagonist overcame one danger after another, you gathered more and more information. In the last 20 minutes of the movie, you suddenly had a strike of brilliance, an epiphany, you felt something. You said to yourself “Oh gosh, is this what’s gonna happen at last? That must be it.” Then the movie climaxed, “almost” as what you expected but much more impactful, sometimes even with a twist. You left the theater satisfied, touched, inspired. “Wow, I kind of knew it. I was good.” You thought. But were you really?
It’s all in the plot. The movie intentionally hinted you, and along the way intentionally skipped certain parts, to let you use your imagination combined with your life experience to lead you to the final “guess”, so that you became part of the movie, you became involved. When involved, emotions kicked in. You became the protagonist without even knowing.
Once again, Robert Mckee in “Story” analyzed it in details.
Having pledged a certain emotion, it’d be ruinous not to deliver. So we give the audience the experience we’ve promised, but not in the way it expects. This is what separates artist from amateur. In Aristotle’s words, an ending must be both “inevitable and unexpected.” Given the characters and their world as we’ve come to understand it, the Climax was inevitable and satisfying. But at the same time it must be unexpected, happening in a way the audience could not have anticipated.
Ah, “Unexpected”, just like what it said in “Made to Stick“, another favorite book of mine. I have recited their SUCCESs method of telling a sticky story, and you should too. These are critical ingredients of a great photograph:
As my mentor always said, everything happens for a reason. Just that you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a reason behind it.
Photography is not moving pictures. It only has one frame. Instead of trying to fill the frame with everything, one should think in another dimension. One way would be to ignite viewer’s imagination and the empathy from their years of life experience by showing less, because imagination can overcome any limit within a frame.
I love Vincent Munier’s works.
I have read the book “Masters of Nature Photography” cover to cover over 30 times, jotting down notes that echoed with me (No I am not obsessive).
In it, Vincent Munier said,
There is nothing more magical than suggestion. When you reveal everything, you kill imagination. I live in a world of imagination. And that’s where I want to stay.
Over the years, I found myself indulging more and more into this direction, into showing less, into the darkness, into my dreams, showing the elusive, secretive, dreamy, otherworldly side of wild animals.
Darkness reminds me of those long nights in a boat years ago when I was a kid, traveling back to my native village once a year to see grandma. Looking out from the window of the boat, it’s so dark and quiet. The sound of the water was music to the ears. I could see the sparse and weak lights from distant houses in the hills that I would keep counting. I would imagine the lives people led living in the little remote towns. I would wave at the occasional lights from the boats passing by. The lighthouses always gave me hopes, with the thought that I would see grandma again soon. The lighthouses were like the eyes of the wild animals in the darkness, as if they were guiding me.
I love lighthouses.
I miss those nights.