Relationship between Writing and Photography

It seems that all of us are constantly on the lookout for an outlet to express ourselves. It seem that one of our primary aims of being alive is to express ourselves. And it seems that our desire to express our thoughts, ideas and feelings often materialises into physical entities: buildings and roads that enable us to travel smoothly from one place to another, cruises and boats that enable us to travel further and further, beautiful architectural design that combines powers and aesthetics, novels that touches the heartstrings of many, music that entice the ears of millions, lyrics of songs that provides comfort and solace for many, photos that capture the essence of particular historical events and immortalise them, dance that combines poetry with motion and many more.

For many of us, we live to create and leave legacies behind – not for our existence to be remembered but for the later generations to benefit from such creations which make this world a much better place to live in. This could well be the primary purpose of life. In the same way that a lit candle is able to light many more candles without losing its flame or glow, earlier generations of humans continue to work towards the betterment of mankind without losing any of their enthusiasm or zest for life. And we are all build differently so as to contribute different things to mankind. Some of us are authors, some are photographers while others are engineers, physicists, chemists, architects, botanists, artists, designers, cooks, drivers and many more. These differences should not serve to drift us apart but to bring us closer together as one world.

This article seeks to focus on two primary creations by humans and examining the close relationship between them- writing and photography. The final product of their combination is not hard to identify. Newspapers, magazines, newsletter, advertising posters, billboard, novels  are just some of the examples where photos and texts are strategically put together to create a coherent piece to inform the world on developments in various areas of interest. An outstanding examples will be National Geographic, which has become popular because of its significant photo displays in its interesting articles, catering to readers worldwide on a monthly basis.  In recent years, the combination of words and images have progressed to the internet in the form of blogs or even photo blogs, where accessibility to the world is greatly increased. Through the possibility of self-publishing, some writers and photographers have even taken the liberty of publishing content online, and selling their products to their customers directly. While doing so cuts cost and time, the ability to publicize their products may be drastically reduced unless the writers and photography has strong and excellent word-of-mouth marketing. Nevertheless, regardless of these circumstances, the link between writing and photography is there and will probably exist for years to come.

As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words. So, why would words be of such importance in current times, where digital technology has become so advanced that photos can be captured in a digital rather than analogue format, and where a bad capture of an image can be gotten rid of by pressing a “delete” button, either on the cameras themselves or through the computer? This is because words provide the directions in shaping one’s perspective(s) while pictures evoke emotions. Emotions, when left alone, can be misleading and if they are negative, can be harmful for our mental health.  This is where words come in – to shape the context of a story and provide perspective(s) for others to consider. In the presence of a photo or photos, words provides a direction for the reader/viewer when the photo seems to be too emotionally-overwhelming or confusing for any form of comprehension to take place. There are some media text which state that some photos are best left alone without caption so as to leave it to the imagination of their viewers/readers to understand what the photo means. While this provides flexibility and freedom for the readers/viewers, most photos are best accompanied by a caption – not to confine understanding and academic exploration but to clarify misinterpretations and prevent miscommunication. This probably explains the common use of captions for photos in various media channels such as newspapers and magazines, even in contemporary times.

Word can also evoke emotions in their readers, in the same way as photos. However, words takes time to build up emotions in their readers. This explains the amount of words and pages in a novel. This does not mean that photos are an easier channel of communication to use than words. Both words and photos are powerful in their own ways but words, in and of themselves, exudes a sense of mystique and depth unseen in other forms of communication channels. This also explains why most of the products in the publishing industry are still word-intensive, such as novels and academic journals. Photography books are available but their numbers have yet to surpass that of text-intensive books. There are also more flexible in the ways that words are structured and these variations give the writers greater control over the strength of their words. The greater the repertoire writers have with their words, the greater their freedom in influencing their readers. However, it is in the face of time constraints (such as not having enough time to pen and shape our thoughts into words or when the readers do not have time to read) that words faces its greatest challenge as a channel for self-expression.

This is where photography comes into the picture.

Equipped with a unique ability to evoke emotions in viewers without any use of words, photos has the advantage of making impressions with speed. This explains the use of cover photos for magazines of various categories such as entertainment, sports and lifestyle.  A well-timed and/or well-taken photo has the ability to not only impress and hold its viewer’s attention but also to entice them to find out more about what the photo is talking about. This is a technique commonly employed by various newspapers and magazines but more often than not, news magazines use this technique more often than the rest . Hence, a communication medium other than images is required to fill in the details.

And this is where words comes into the picture.

Thus, the combination of  words and images provide the most powerful form of mass communication, as compared to the use of words or images alone. Of course,  the more powerful form of self-expression appears in the form where one takes precedence over the others.  We can see this in photo galleries or exhibitions where photos take precedence over words, of which the function of the latter merely serves as a form of a “caption”, informing the viewers of the photo on specific details such as the name of the photographer, the date , time and place where the photos are taken. Alternatively, words may take precedence over photos,  as can be seen in most newspapers where texts offers more enriching information than photos, often attracting readers through the use of interesting and catchy headlines. This is the same concept as photography, where photographers strive very hard not to allow two elements of similar importance in a photo to vie for the attention of their viewers.

Having now known the impact, importance and influence of the combination of words and images,  it will be interesting for you as a reader to assess the impact of this blog where picture and image have been combined. See the influence of photos and words for yourself.  And in your subsequent encounters with them, try to understand how the dynamics of their partnership work and over time, you will develop an-in depth understanding of how to combine and use words and images in an effective way.

And this is where YOU – as a writer and user of photographs- come into the picture.

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