Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words?


I didn’t get a story in The Petigru Review, the anthology of the South Carolina Writers’ Workshopthis year (grrr),but some of my photographs are included (not the ones above). Yay! I’m happy about that because I’ve realized that whether a person is writing, taking photographs, making holiday decorations, arranging a “composition” for the yard, or creating jewelry, the artist in her is making those things possible. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? That’s what the cliché says, and if there’s some truth to that, then my pictures spoke the words for me in this year’s issue.

Not to worry. I’m not going to get big-headed over my delight in seeing my these black and white images spread throughout the pages of TPR. I’m still a little amazed that they made the cut. Wait. Could it be that very few other photographers submitted their work? No, I’m not even going to allow myself to think that way. And do I really want to know the answer to that question? Does it matter? What matters is that I saw some breathtakingly lovely scenes on the beaches of South Carolina and was fortunate enough to have my iPhone with me at just the right moment.

Yes, I used an iPhone. Its camera is pretty good, and I’ve learned enough from my daughter Carrie and my friend Connie to look for certain things. Light is important. So is angle. I’ve also learned that the photographer might have to snap the same scene several times in order to get such the right composition. Connie tells me that I have a good eye, and that gives me confidence. Oh and the rule of thirds. I’ve learned that too. I’ve also learned that, just like in writing, sometimes it’s okay to break the rules.

Why do I take pictures? Sometimes I do it because I have to. The scene is so arresting that I must capture it for posterity…or at least until I get home and have a chance to look at it in a different context and light. Sometimes I take pictures because I want to remember exactly what I saw. Interestingly, I’ve often taken pictures only to look at them later and see something I didn’t notice at the time, a person collecting shells in the background or a lone fisherman casting his line out to sea

I’ve often taken pictures that evoke some emotion. A couple of weeks ago I snapped a dozen pictures of a gray, overcast morning on the beach. Even the ocean appeared grayish-blue with white froth. When I looked at the pictures later, I experienced a haunting feeling of melancholy tinged with nostalgia. Those pictures are the ones above. Do they evoke the same feeling in you?

I also take pictures for a popular reason. I want to look at the places I’ve been and the people I’ve been with. It’s amazing how a simple photograph taken years ago can immediately conjure up a memory. One of my brothers likes a black and white photo of the two of us as children as we opened chocolate kisses. Seated at a kitchen table with our eyes fixed on the sweet treats before us, we were intent on removing the silver foil. My brother sees this picture and “remembers” that I had swiped a couple of his kisses from his pile on the table. I remind him, to no avail, that memory is not to be trusted, that it is part fact and part fiction.

I mainly take pictures because it focuses my attention on the beauty around me. In an attempt to be more mindful, I’ve begun noticing shapes, homes, trees, that certain slant of light, the deer that run across our yard, and the sun as it inches into the foyer each morning.

I’ve enjoyed reliving moments of the past year or so by looking at pictures in TPR. I’m so glad that I snapped those scenes and that now they can come to mind so easily by leafing through the pages of the anthology. Hmmm. Now I’m wondering if I could/should try to write a story or scene using a photograph as my prompt. Or maybe you could.

About jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer
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