Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Telling Stories

Right to left: Brian Ricks, Johnny Barnes, and Wang Xuan in Johnny's back yard. Photo by Kari Sawden.
As someone who has always been perfectly, utterly, and completely content with her tiny Fuji digital camera in all its JPEG glory, the promise of today’s training session with photographer Brian Ricks filled me with equal parts excitement and trepidation. However, this post is not about his patient explanations of ISO settings and the rule of thirds, nor is it about the wonderful people who welcomed this group of strangers into their spaces so that we could develop our photography skills – no, this post is about a saying that has been with me all day:

A picture is worth a thousand words.

When I first began my university studies, it was as an English Literature major. I cherished the privilege of being able to daily immerse myself in stories and being challenged to explore not only what the text said but how it was crafted. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder about the stories that existed outside of the literary canon and off of the written page. So, eventually, I found myself in folklore studies, where I continue to learn how to read buildings and objects, to explore the stories in people’s own words as well as their actions, and where the written form is only one of so very many types of expression. And it has made me wary of comparisons between pictures and words.

In returning to this phrase throughout the day, I became far less concerned with discovering this elusive pixel to word ratio than with the very idea of equating one form of communication with another. I have seen photos that are beyond the capacity of language to express. There simply are not enough words, they are not fine enough, expressive enough, to capture that singular moment. Conversely, the poetry of photography cannot capture the texture of a well-crafted word in relation to the ones that come before and after, how they can tickle your mind, or how you can carry them with you as though they had actual weight. Each form, and the diversity within each, is equal, valuable, and essential, but not interchangeable.

Today, by taking pictures throughout Quidi Vidi and reviewing these photos with my classmates and teachers, I learned about the worth of the photograph, not in comparison to any other form of communication, but completely in its own right. I learned that photos remind us that it is always worth it to look past the exterior…
Beer bottle in kettle in Johnny and Anne Barnes' backyard. Photo by Kari Sawden.

That there is glorious complexity in everyday life…

Inside Johnny Barnes' shed. Photo by Kari Sawden.
And that there are always more stories to come…

Tourists in Quidi Vidi. Photo by Kari Sawden.

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