A baby lying on a blue blanket in a crib, viewed from above. The crib is surrounded by white netting and a hand reaches into the child. © Muhammed Muheisen

Expo Talks: What does the future hold for our stories?

What are we if not the sum of our stories? The experiences we share and our imaginations are the very essence of what it means to be human. It’s only as time passes that we can note the ways in which the transaction of tales has changed. Whether that’s in how the skilled storytellers of old conjured up such elaborate images with their words that they transported listeners into worlds they could never visit. Or masterful brushstrokes that, through some alchemy of colour, communicate a world of ideas and symbolic messages on a single canvas.

Print gave our stories the power to travel at speed and the invention of the camera not only gave us a secondary reliable witness to evidence what we share but adds a necessary dimension beyond the limits of our imaginations. Today we have all experienced the world through the eyes and lens of another and yet we have never reached our capacity for stories. We do not tire of them. If anything, the more we have, the more we need.

But what of the storytellers?

When we seek to invoke the magic, we might find ourselves at something of an intersection. History is no longer fixed, and we are learning a new way of looking at our world every day through the new perspectives and truths that storytelling has brought us over recent years. Our influences are vast – the storytellers that came before us are too many to count and we all look to different places for our inspiration. The future, of course, is unwritten… but not entirely unpredictable. With this in mind, we tasked ten Canon Ambassadors to consider what the future holds for visual storytelling – and what it will mean for them and for the wider world. In the video below, they share their thoughts and ideas, which open up some important questions for the future.

Right: A shot of Simeon Quarrie, filming outdoors on a street with a Canon camera. Left: A quote that reads: ““Imagine watching a movie or a tv series. The shot and the composition remain structured, however the visuals inside the story change”

Will storytelling become a dynamic force?

“The tools are changing, technology is taking over,” says Canon Ambassador Muhammed Muheisen. “Social media is all over the place. It’s like a train that moves so fast, and you’d better be side-by-side with it, or you will spend ten years trying to catch up.” At this stage, our lives and technology are so intertwined that it almost goes without saying that most of those who tell tales and those who enjoy them will do so with tech as a familiar intermediary. Indeed, we are so driven by our desire to absorb the stories of others that we watch films on our phones, listen to podcasts on the move, raise our wrists to see push notifications of breaking news and scroll through live feeds, watching the lives of others slide easily under our fingertips. As a consumer, the tools we use are intuitive, easy, convenient. What we need is right in front of us and it is this simplicity that drives the demand for new ways of creating on the part of the storytellers. As Muhammed says, you can’t stop for a second and, believes fellow Ambassador Simeon Quarrie, nor should you. He is excited by new technologies with the potential to create a less passive experience, rather than the one-way gifting of a story to others. “I think that the visual story of the future will respond to the viewer. Imagine watching a movie or a TV series. The shot and the composition remain structured, however the visuals inside the story change,” he says. And if this all sounds a little Bladerunner, what if viewers can take control of how they choose to see a scene – adjusting the lighting to their taste or using the camera to create an alternative viewpoint?

A bright green car lies discarded at an angle in a junk yard, surrounded by other discarded objects and car parts. The rear window of the car is gone and a pair of what appear to be women’s legs in pink tights protrude through where the window should be. It is impossible to tell if they are human or a mannequin.
‘LEG IT’ is a series of self-portraits by Guia Besana, where she explores her urge to escape physical confinement during the pandemic. © Guia Besana

Will a new kind of ‘indie’ win the battle for hearts and minds?

“Storytelling will, for sure, embrace a broader knowledge,” says portrait photographer and Canon Ambassador, Guia Besana. “It will bring new stories with new points of views but respecting an increase in personal interpretations.” Of course, this too is influenced by the access we have to the lived experiences of others. When bringing these to life, Guia believes that this will spark a new wave of free thinking in future generations that crosses divides, absorbs technologies and assumes a position of activism. It feels like something of a genre shift, driven by the audiences that are looking for stories that either reflect the world they see (in a way that perhaps has been limited before) or challenges their world view. The audiences may be smaller and the stories more plentiful, but their value, relevance and significance incalculable. As Ambassador Laura Bisgaard Krogh concludes, we should “tell stories that are really important. And in order for us to do so, everyone has to be involved.”

And will ‘digital fatigue’ cause us to seek what we have always sought?

The TV shows that create the biggest flurries of online conversations? Well, they’re often a dramatization of real-life events or a have storyline that is utterly absorbing in its humanity or newness. A perfect example might be found in the Netflix surprise hit, Squid Game, where the production values may not have been perfect, and the translation hit and miss, but audiences around the world forgave it all for a narrative that was utterly transfixing and, crucially, unlike anything they had seen before. Equally, digital photo frames did not replace the single images we choose for our walls, and we still carefully select the kinds of single shot stories that “trigger your feelings,” according to Ambassador Tasneem Alsultan. For this reason, she doesn’t “see prints dying anytime soon” and we will long continue to have an appetite for beautiful and meaningful printed, textural images in the places we call home.

Because stories are uniquely human. We create them to transport us, to reflect our truths, to remember and hold our memories close. They put us and our loves at the centre of life. They share beauty – and remind us of what is ugly. Stories transcend our differences and belong to everyone. Today, we are all storytellers. Tomorrow too.

Written by Constanze Bauer, Canon EMEA Communications Specialist