I have always been drawn to images but recently realized what an immense power they can have on my writing. After using images created by others, I decided to use my own photographs to trigger stories. I am not a photographer, but with the simple, accessible camera on my phone, I can capture images that activate an exciting inner conversation.
“Show not tell,” we are told time and time again. The secret is in the details. And so, as writers, we attempt to paint with our words three-dimensional scenes on a white canvas. The challenge of deciphering the world with words can be, at times, frustrating.
We're visual beings; images speak to us. Even before we learn how to articulate our world with literal symbols, our brains, thirsty for stimulation, absorb the abundance of images surrounding us. The power of photography lies in its ability to bypass our verbal mind and aim directly for the senses.
Photography means drawing with light. The word, derived from the Greek photos (light) and graphein (to draw), was first used in the 1830s. It is now, as I am sure it was when it was first invented, no less than magic.
It is tempting to compare the act of photography and that of writing. A photograph is a compact capsule, two-dimensional, the same as writing. The uniqueness of images, however, is that they can do what we as writers aspire to—they can show, not tell.
Like any good magic, there is a secret spell. Let me share it with you:
- Choose a verbal prompt.
- Armed with your camera, look around for images that can express the prompt.
- Shoot...as many photographs as you desire.
- Observe the results.
- Pick a photograph that speaks to you either because it expresses the prompt, or better yet, take it further.
- Paste it to the top of your writing canvas (a page or a computer screen) that now is no longer an empty white void.
- Verbalize the exchange between the visual and the literary.
Every photograph is a choice. It creates a refreshing duet of colors and sensations, and can enhance your writing by presenting a vantage point as well as a point-of-entry into a story worth telling.