A Thousand Words is Worth a Picture

Greenway, Devon, England

I’ve been running this blog for over three years now and, hopefully, have learned a few things along the way, not least of which is that blogging regularly is pretty hard to do. Coming up with something original to say or, in the case of a photography blog, something pictorially original, week after week can be difficult. Since starting this blog I’ve developed a deep admiration of columnists and cartoon creators in newspapers who have weekly or even daily deadlines to meet, and by and large don’t get a paycheque if they don’t ‘produce’. I have even more admiration for photography bloggers like Ming Thein, Erik Kim and Trey Ratcliff who seem to be able to constantly come up with new and interesting content, often several times a week.

One of the hardest things about both photography and blogging is keeping your creative juices flowing. I’ve written before on some tips for doing this from other creatives such as Twyla Tharp and Jen Brook. Often the creative spark can come from unexpected places such as when you are out and about thinking about something completely different or when browsing around the web reading up on an unrelated topic. So it was with this post when I came across the article Every Story Tells a Picture on dearsusan.net. This set me thinking about what other well known phrases could be deployed by switching around a couple of the key words – hence the title of this post.

So why is this thousand words worth the above picture and what is the picture of anyway? It was taken yesterday at what was the holiday home of the crime and mystery writer Agatha Christie (supposedly the best selling author of all time). The house is called Greenway and is in Devon, England. It’s now owned by the National Trust. We’re taking a vacation down on the south coast of Devon and it turns out Greenway is a short walk from the cottage we are renting. The image is taken on one of the porches at the back of the house and from it you can view the Dart estuary. Yesterday when I was there it was predictably packed with tourists (okay, myself included) making it hard to get any images that weren’t full of people enjoying their holiday weekend. I took this just before closing time when the light was less harsh and nearly everyone had left. I like to think that Agatha Christie herself sat on this porch looking out over the Devonshire countryside and the River Dart and maybe dreaming up the next Poirot or Miss Marple whodunnit. Here’s the thing though, if I’d not told you that how would you have possibly understood what I had in mind when I took this image?

If art, in its broadest sense, is a form of communication then presumably it must mean whatever the artist intends it to mean. That meaning is contextualised by the medium in which it is created as well as the techniques used in its creation. For art to work it must also create ideas and feelings in those consuming it. Art then becomes a way of expressing feelings, thoughts, and observations through different mediums.*

The picture above is a fairly mundane image. I don’t intend to ascribe to it any great artistic value. It does however have some meaning, to me at least, which I would like the viewer to also understand and appreciate. To do that I have had to use some words to help convey that meaning. Is this a bad thing or should art always stand on its own and be immediately understandable? I don’t think so. I think adding a few words, if not a thousand, to describe the background of a photograph does no harm and can indeed add to its meaning.

*From: What Does Art Mean?  

One Reply to “A Thousand Words is Worth a Picture”

  1. […] what we see may well be led by how (or if) the image is captioned. This might be a very explicit description of what the photograph is about […]

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