Meg Birnbaum’s upcoming education series with Griffin will allow you make your personal story into a universal one. We wanted to delve into the creative and narrative process behind her photographs, and what objectives she hopes to hit in her class.
What aspects of photographic storytelling are most important that often don’t apply with non-narrative photography?
I think that the artists intention is the most important aspect – not just the story but what it is that the artist wants to convey, what kind of emotion does the artist want to share with or elicit from the viewer?
Tell us about your background.
I grew up outside NYC and consider myself fortunate because my parents subscribed to a number of magazines including the amazing LIFE and LOOK. I credit them and the NY Times Sunday Magazine with developing my interest in narrative photography. It was a wonderful time for magazines and I remember racing home from school to be the first to look at them, reluctantly handing them over to my dad when he got home. What I remember is how well the photography went beyond direct photojournalism but also took you inside humanity’s joy and sadness. Many of the images are etched in my memory still. Around the same time my sister was given an enlarger and we set up a darkroom in our attic when I was 11. Many years later I went to art school and worked for many years art directing and designing magazines, including Cook’s Illustrated and Yankee Magazine’s special Summer Travel issues.
Does your narrative photography often reflect your own experiences?
Mostly but not always. Different projects developed in different ways – often one thing leads to another. Taking on a project can be a great way to answer questions you have about someone or something that is outside your day-to-day life. You can encourage your own curiosity which I think is one of the healthiest things you can have. Two of my long-term projects were about one large thing but at the same time the underlying personal interest was to pursue why some people are terribly shy and others seemingly are not.
How do you involve photography into your everyday life?
I am in my head a lot but always looking – at other photographers works, at movies, at people, at art. I love to wander through stores like Michael’s and Joann Fabrics looking for prop inspirations.
What are the objectives of your class?
The class objective is to guide people towards illustrating the story they want to tell, and/or helping people figure out what it is that they want to work on. Myself – and the other students – will point out the strengths, patterns and themes that we see in each other’s work while also discussing what images might be missing and how to find them. After the class is over the Griffin museum will hold a zoom session for students to share the stories that they have worked on.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Please join us online for an engaging look at narrative photography. The first class is February 14th, and runs through June 20th, 2023. For more information, look here on our education page for the details.
ABOUT MEG BIRNBAUM
Meg Birnbaum is a fine art photographer, designer and educator. She has had solo exhibitions in Kobe, Japan, the Davis Orton Gallery, NY, Panopticon Gallery, Boston, Corden Potts Gallery, San Francisco, the Griffin Museum of Photography, Lishui China, International Photography Festival, and at the Museum of Art Pompeo Boggio, Buenos Aires during the Biennial Encuentros Abiertos-Festival de la Luz. Her work has been juried into many national and international photography competitions. Birnbaum was an invited exhibitor at Flash Forward Festival 2011 in Boston and was nominated for the 2009 Santa Fe Prize for Photography.
Birnbaum taught illustration at Montserrat College of Art and has been teacher of the Photography Atelier classes at the Griffin Museum of Photography. Her work is held in the permanent collection of the Meditech Corporation, the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, the Lishui Museum of Photography in China and many private collections.