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Every Still is a Story

Special Editor's Note by Steve Smede

Published in the August 2023 Issue Published online: Aug 11, 2023 Photography
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My wife, the consummate educator, is a sponge for inspirational content.

Knowing that I was in the thralls of helping out the magazine with its annual photo contest, she recently sent me a video from Canon Australia about six different photographers who were commissioned to shoot the same person, but each of them was briefed with a different subject history.

The subject in question was a nondescript 40-something white male. To one photographer, he was presented as a psychic healer. To another, he was a self-made millionaire. His other manufactured personas included recovering alcoholic, retired fisherman and life-saving hero. The experiment’s aim was to see what kind of results would transpire from these different photographers in their efforts to create a fitting portrait.

“Every still is a story,” my old Post Register photo mentor Robert Bower once told me. Even more intriguing was the question he left unanswered: “But whose story?”

You can see the results of the Canon Australia experiment online. Just Google “6 Photographers 1 Man,” and you’ll see it at the top of the pile as a YouTube video. Suffice it to say that the resulting mosaic of images went far beyond variations in lighting, expression and pose. Fueled by convincing back stories, the portraits seemed to convey their own convincing realities.

The project was the most compelling evidence I’ve ever seen that photography is not about taking pictures. It is about creating narratives. And despite the subject matter in front of the lens, it’s the mind behind it that tells the tale.

I invite you now  to think on this a bit as you enjoy the results of the 15th annual East Idaho Community Photo Contest.

Out of several hundred entries, our panel of judges and staff have narrowed down the top five images in seven categories: Nature & Wildlife, Portraits, Scenics, Events, Sports & Leisure, Birds and Open. As in years past, we’ve also hand-picked a dozen or so “Editor’s Picks” that we felt were worthy of some special attention.

We were especially impressed with 2023’s Portrait, Scenic and Open categories. As always, Nature & Wildlife garnered the most entries, closely followed by Birds.

In the spirit of visual story-telling, we encourage future entries that focus on key community events in the coming months. For reasons we’ve never been able to peg, the Events category has been the lightest on participation numbers when it seems like the opposite should be true. (Specifically, we’d love to see some entries from upcoming summer and early-fall celebrations like the Eastern Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot, the Shoshone Bannock Indian Festival in Fort Hall and Spud Day in Shelley.)

 If you’d like to throw your hat in the ring and share your visual stories for next year’s contest, the flood gates are now open for 2024. Just head to idahofallsmagazine.com, click on Contests and submit.

—Steve Smede

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