“Photography is not storytelling.” That’s nonsense. It’s pretzel logic, twisted into a biased conclusion, a waste of time to read; not itself a story. Opinions are one thing; pedantry is another.
Whether I stand in front of crowd talking, spinning a yarn, or memorialize an encounter on film (with people or any kind of subject matter) and then show it, I’m telling a story. Who gave you the authority to say otherwise?
Photographers employ a particularly sublime skill to tell stories. Take portraits, for example. (They’re near and dear to me.) All portraitists, whether exploiting film, pixels, pencils, or paint, are visual storytellers — even biographers of sorts. A biography is certainly a story. Even one chapter in a biography is a story. One portrait is a chapter in a biography.
One can also say that the skills of a portraitist are the same as those of a documentary filmmaker — with only one frame of film to work with. It’s hard, and it takes real talent to tell a story so concisely; a story both biographical (about the subject) and autobiographical (about the photographer) at the same time. But many do so successfullly. Unlike movie-making, when one relies on a collaborative team of artists and technicians that includes screenwriters, cinemaphotographers, and even musicians, a portraitist is an auteur; as much so as any Truffaut, Renoir, or Godard. As much so, too, as any writer. In the end, however, not to belittle a subject’s contribution, it is pretty much the photographer’s show, as it would be a writer’s show or a filmmaker’s show. As to portrait photograpy in particular, the nature of wielding such creative power allows serial opportunities to luxuriate in an intimate and sometimes intellectual give-and-take; a myriad of conversations. Portraiture is also a conversation. Every conversation entails stories. Every individual portrait tells a story. So does a landscape or a still life. A collection of photographs can tell an epic story.