Thursday, June 14, 2012

Having something to say

If I could use words to make my photographic statements, I wouldn't be taking pictures.  I'd be writing prose or poetry instead. 

Some people need to use their hands when they talk.  Words aren't enough. 
Some people need to dance to fully express what they have to say.

Others express themselves best through music.

Every medium best suits its own kind of expression.  And every type of expression seeks its best medium. 

Make a statement.  Tell a story.  These instructions are really metaphors borrowed from the verbal realm, and often get applied to nonverbal media. Sometimes they don't make any sense. What story is there in a Mozart divertimento?  Beats me, but I love to listen to it.

Words can be put into sentences and can be used to order lunch, call the dog, ask for directions, say happy birthday.  They also have been used to create the most sublime poetry, provocative essay, wrentching novel.

So, too, with photographic images.  Most are snapshots, documents of moments, people, events.  A few pull us into them, engage us, force us to listen with our eyes.  Even fewer are so significant to us we keep going back to them, never quite getting enough in any one viewing.

I can't easily translate from visual medium to the verbal.  Ask me what one of those pictures says to me, and I can barely mumble.  I don't even know where to start.  Expressing in words what a photograph says to me visually is like substituting the menu for the meal.  It doesn't work for me.  I can tell you where I felt the picture in my body, I can even awkwardly describe the feeling.  I can talk about how the picture arranges its elements compositionally.  It's easier for me to describe what a picture does to me than put into words what it says to me.

So, it's about expression in its own medium.  Things get lost in translation.  And every translation is an interpretation.

We express most effectively when we genuinely have somethng to say. Words are only one way to say things. And sometimes we should skip the words entirely.

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