Scenes in search of characters

Visiting Dublin last December, I made sure to include a day at the National Gallery. There I made a new acquaintance – the paintings of Jack B. Yeats. Sure, I had seen some of his images gracing book covers and illustrating chapters on Irish history, but I had never taken the time to explore his images for themselves.

There were many different things that fascinated me about his images; fodder for far more than one blog post. What I want to share here is a series of Yeats’s paintings called Four Scenes in Search of Characters. I could only see one of them displayed in the gallery, and I’ve managed to find only one other online.

So unfortunately I have only seen two of the four paintings in this series, and yet I am very fascinated by the two I have seen.

According to the National Gallery online display linked to above, the images in this series were painted as stage sets. From that comes the name of the series – being intended for the theatre, they are backdrops waiting to be complemented by the characters of a play.

I live here now.I couldn’t help but see the similarity between Yeats’s images and my own experiences when travelling. What else is a hotel room but a blank canvas, a backdrop for the individual experiences of each traveller visiting?

Furthermore I began to wonder how to portray scenes in search of characters with my camera. My images feature people very rarely; my closest friends and family are very camera shy, and I am too shy myself to photograph strangers. So I wonder if I can turn the absence of characters into a photographic strength, into a storytelling feature, a trigger of the imagination?

One image that fits this idea is shown here. This is from my hotel room in Dublin, portraying the feeling I always have that I am more at home in a hotel when some of my things are scattered around, like a book on the nightstand, or, like here, a lipstick and some hairclips on the sink in the bathroom.

This image, then, holds strong memories for me of an interesting weekend spent in Dublin. However, I also see the absence of people and the seeds of a story in it, as if an unknown woman just exited the bathroom after applying her lipstick.

In sum, it all comes down to the ever-present desire to tell stories through photography, a desire I hope shall never leave me.

<a href=”; title=”I live here now. by jennifée {busy but trying to catch up}, on Flickr”><img src=”; width=”333″ height=”500″ alt=”I live here now.” /></a>

About Jenny Graver

Living in Oslo, Norway, with her partner and their infant son, Jenny struggles for balance between all the things that makes life worth living - her family, her job in university administration, her writing, learning and her photography. View all posts by Jenny Graver

3 responses to “Scenes in search of characters

  • Kat

    Beautiful post! I like the idea of “scenes in search of characters.” The image you shared does allow a story to form.

  • savannah

    funny… i am so much the same. i often find myself putting my things in the drawers, and even rearranging the space {or redecorating it} as if it were my own home, instead of a hotel room. i have great memories of staying in hotels as a kid. we rarely went on vacations, and when we did, our parents made the hotel experience the WOW factor of it… to make us feel like we were on a really special trip {even is it was just your average hotel}.

    well, i just wanted to stop by your blog and leave you a special note… i’ve been sending this to all the p.w. peeps who were kind enough to take time and stop by my photos and comment throughout the workshop…

    “just wanted to stop and say hello… i’m going through all the profiles of those who commented on my picture winter photos, and looking to see if they have blogs or flickr accounts {and if not, then sending an e-mail}… so that i can A) say thank you for the comments and feedback you gave me, and B) let them know i would love to stay in touch… especially to those who expressed interest in keeping up to date on what is happening with my pregnancy. since i can not remember all who asked, i thought i would just go through each profile and send a message. =)

    i’ll be updating my blog periodically with baby news… just in case you are interested:

    thanks again for all your comments on p.w.! it was an inspiration to meet you and see your work! i hope to see more of it even though the class is over.”

    so glad to see you have a blog! i hope we can stay in touch, jenifee. {did i spell that right?}

    all the best to you!


    • littlescribe

      Aww, thank you for this wonderful comment! I do hope to stay in touch with people from the Picture classes, and will try to stop by your blog from time to time.

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