Stronger Stories

Thames Ward Community Project, Barking, 25th November 2019.

Stronger Stories workshop, Barking, 2019

Workshop with members of the TWCP Citizen Action Group, exploring ways of constructing compelling stories to coney a sense of the work that people are doing in the community. We worked with a template based on Joseph Campbell’s universal story structure (from ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’).

Our initial exercise was to work through the section of the template with our own community activist story as a focus. For me, this illuminated the manner in which I have used similar narrative structures to construct my own biographical accounts (see forthcoming post on Andreas Gursky’s photographic biography). It also reinforced my commitment to evade and subvert the common desire for photographic storytelling in my work (see reflection of Week 10 Tutorial for exploration of the implications of this for the outcomes of my FMP). Quite how image making fits with this is an open question. Film was used to illustrate how the structure drives narrative and moves to resolution (key in the use of stories to persuade). Images could be used to illustrate the unfolding of the narrative but this literal and descriptive approach would limit the use of images to adornment. As the members of the group produce narratives around their own work, it is an interesting challenge to produce images to supplement and enhance these.

For the second part of the session, we worked in pairs to create narrative for people who had been identified as ‘villains’ in our own narratives (the council, the developer, funders), a useful exercise in decanting, the principle point being that people do see themselves as the villains in their own stories, so to be convincing, we have to appreciate, and incorporate, these narratives into our own. Again, this issues a challenge to image making.

The workshop was useful not only in exploring the use of stories in advocacy, and clarifying our own stories, but also in the illumination of each others motivations and aspirations, which for me creates a stronger base from which to develop my photographic work in this context.


Campbell, J. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 1st edition, Bollingen Foundation, 1949. 2nd edition, Princeton University Press. 3rd edition, New World Library, 2008

Stronger Stories, Resources