One picture is worth a thousand words

I love photography and how a picture can create an instant connection or feeling. One simple image can carry you thousands of miles away to places you’ve never seen or imagined or across the street to the neighbor’s house. It can lift you up, making you smile or laugh, or rip out your heart, bringing on a rush of sadness and tears — all with the flip of a switch or a snap of the fingers.


While I love great photography, I’m not a great photographer myself. I can see wonderful, bright, colorful images in my head, but I’ve never been able to replicate them completely as I would like into my camera and onto the web or printed page. I understand the importance of terms like aperture, exposure, and shutter speed to list a few, but it’s still all very foreign to me.

I suspect a small part of me loves photography so much because I’m envious of how long it takes great writing to create the same feeling. Writing has to build up. You need to catch the reader’s attention right from the start, pulling them away from their smartphone or everything around them and into your piece. It doesn’t end there. You need to keep the reader following the story, nugget by nugget, to the climax. You run the risk of boring or losing the reader at any point in time.

One wrong move here or there and they’re gone. One false word choice . . . phewf, and they’re gone, moving onto a thousand different distractions. You need to find the right balance. You can’t be too simple or too flowery with the language, too vague or detailed. And God forbid, you have a grammar mistake, you’ll lose them forever.

As someone reads your work, you can try to read their face, but you may never get the reaction you’re looking for from the reader. With a photograph, you get your answer right away. Yes, it worked, they’re smiling, or no, they moved onto another picture. Yes or no, there’s very little in between, you get your reaction instantly.

While I love the immediacy and the end result of photography, I suspect I would be a horrible professional photographer. I came across a site recently that posted wedding photographer’s most memorable pictures. I think these are pure magic: a bride-to-be getting ready for her big day by reading a letter from her deceased mother who wrote to her years earlier; another bride reading a letter from her sobbing father in the back of a limousine; a simple photo of a groom kissing his elderly grandmother. These photos tell a thousand stories and leave the viewer wanting more.

My gut tells me that the couples never expected the pictures they got back in return. The photographer though looked through his or her lens and saw another altogether different image: raw emotion bubbling to the surface. The photographers came back with a story that needed to be told.

And that’s what I love about photography.


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