Miniclick 6: Writing Exercise – The Unphotographable

The final installment from Miniclick 6:  After my presentation and writing exercise at Miniclick 6, I handed out one final task, which was this take home writing exercise to try to help photographers start utilizing moments that they couldn’t or didn’t capture visually to identify narrative patterns in their work, thus helping to streamline or articulate their photographic intentions, vision or themes.

The Unphotographed or Unphotographable


Photographer Michael David Murphy has a project called Unphotographable for which he keeps a written record of photos he did not take or was unable to take, for one reason or another, even though he would have liked to do so.  For example, Murphy writes:

1. This is a picture I did not take of an 18-year old woman blazing down a highway in the passing lane while talking on her phone with her hazard flashers flashing, her car’s windows covered with messages about her recently passed birthday, including a large, “I’M LEGAL!” scrawled in pink across her rear windshield, inches above a completely crumpled rear-end, the trunk shoved-up into the back seat, taillight cables dangling, the entire back-end of the car so extraordinarily crunched, as if she’d enthusiastically backed into something that just wouldn’t give, like the Pentagon, a cement-mixer, or Mt. Rushmore.

2.  This is a picture I did not take of a sign across the street from a “Bargains Warehouse” store, a place that sells a dozen tube socks for a couple of bucks, the handmade sign yellow and bright with red letters advertising “BODY OIL, 99 cents”, the sign perched on the roadside across from the store in the green summer grass of a cemetery.

Challenge: Write down one of your own unphotographable or unphotographed moments. Describe an image you wish you had captured; however, take a step beyond Murphy and describe, in addition, the time of day the elements of context associated with the image you wanted to capture, i.e. the weather, sounds, tastes, smells, surrounding events, etc. What was it specifically about the image that you wished you could have recorded?

Unphotographable/unphotographed moment: This is a picture I did not take…


Elements of Context:

Follow-up: Try to do this regularly and start to look for patterns in these descriptions; see if a photographic intention emerges.  How might an acknowledgement of these patterns or intention direct your next photographic project?  Is there a repeated thread to the emotions the moment aroused in you and the effects the images might have on viewers?

Murphy doesn’t post any public submissions of other photographers’ unphotographable moments, but I would be thrilled to see some in the comments here.

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