Book Project: #6 Theme, Working Model #1


I now need to start planning the book.  Based on Frank’s process, I need to start by laying out a story line and break that out into its constituent  themes, symbols and meaning.  Theme, symbol, meaning, in my mind, are closely tied: theme expresses story (meaning); symbols are elements of the theme that convey meaning.  

I expect to iterate through the process as I refine my understanding of the storyline and as I collect photography to express it. There will be, I expect, a two-way interaction: themes that drive the need for photography; compelling photography that changes the theme. As such, I accept that it’s not practical to try to develop the full storyline — all its themes and symbols — and the corresponding photography early on. I’ll work on the assumption that it can only be finalized once the photography is available; once the “words” are known.  This appears to be consistent with Frank’s approach, as evidenced by him returning to the field during the editing process.  Having said that, I need to have some idea of what I’ll be doing. I need a storyline; having a starting set of themes and symbols will help get me started. I just don’t need to stick with them if, for example, I find something better, I can’t find supporting photography or things are getting out of hand and I need to focus.

The topic, storyline, of my book is The Impact of Globalization on Local Cultures. Broadly, the idea is as we experience immigration from various countries around the work, how do the local people accommodate and incorporate different cultures? What changes do we see as a result?  Is there a blending of cultures?

This translates into a series of photographs that first capture culture and second show change or impact.  Frank spent time trying to identify the symbols [of America], so in this context I need to establish a set of symbols representing culture.  There are of course many. I have chosen what I hope is a manageable number: 

  • Buildings:
    Here I’m thinking mostly in terms of architecture. How the architecture of a building often reflects a culture.  As well, the architecture of buildings has evolved over time allowing the change element to be incorporated
  • Language / Food:  
    Language is an important expression of the culture, however, the oral form is difficult to capture in photography. Food, however can be photographed, either directly or indirectly through restaurant signs (which often include the language of the community, and thus the linkage)
  • Society / community representations:
    This is intended to portray other manifestations of culture, although at this point many of my subjects are religious buildings as religion is historically a central part of the cultural fabric.
  • Family:
    A foundational element of culture and relationships it would seem odd not to include this theme.  My initial thoughts are to use family as the main narrative theme. 

I have also thought in terms of metaphors that I can use to connect the actualization to the story:

  • The highway:
    The highway as a metaphor for the connection between the global community and the local one. 
  • The City:
    The city as a local incarnation of the global community; certainly this becomes clearer thinking about Toronto as a diversified and cosmopolitan centre.

I don’t know at this point how these related to the main narrative which family might drive. Are these complementary or not?

Photography Plan: Level 1 identifies main symbols (e.g., Buildings); Level 2 identifies categories within the symbol; Level 3 identifies the type of image to take

The diagram above expands those themes along a path leading to the types of photography required.  This is intended to focus the work.  


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