Happy National Photography Day! Strange way to start a blog post about writing, I know. Except…it really isn’t odd at all, when you consider how much the two mediums have in common.
Consider first that the word photography literally means “light writing” because the original—think analogue—process of making a picture “wrote” onto silver-coated plates and later film. Watching a photographic print develop, turning from a blank sheet of photographic paper into a picture that you took, is akin to magic, and as writers, we’re all too familiar with the feeling of turning something common—in our case, words– into something special.
That’s not all we share. Much of the language of literature is similar in photography. Focus, big picture, develop, black & white, and composition are terms each purveyor of the craft might use. But the most significant one would be imagery, and it is there that we share the most, this desire to convey a moment in time, to make the reader (or viewer) feel and see what we choose.
And on a more basic level, how many of us have Pinterest boards or cork boards or folders full of pictures we use as references? (It can’t just be me with thousands of them somewhat tidily collected and sort of organized.) And like many authors, I try to translate the image into words tweaked of course to match the scene I’m creating.
Personally, I’m a bit of a shutterbug. Yes, those are all my cameras, and I do use them (though the oldest are quite challenging). I’ve also included a picture of the oldest and newest ones in my collection. Not only do I like the contrast—one analogue and one digital—I like the juxtaposition of old and new technologies, and both have their place in my life.
Like most people, I take hundreds of photos in a month. Some are good. Some are complete crap and rather quickly deleted. I love the instantaneous nature of digital. It’s also a bit of a class equalizer. Photography in general is an expensive hobby, but the ability to use our phones has levelled that playing field, much like the Kodak Brownie did back in the day.
But I think we’ve also lost something along the way. If you’ve ever taken an analogue photo, you’ll know that it’s a rather deliberative process, in part because each print is very expensive. So I take my time and only take pictures that are worthwhile and have meaning. I strive to make them perfect from the beginning because otherwise, what’s the point? I’ll end up with a blurry, useless image. (Having said that, candid pictures and analogue are fun. Many might be less than ideal, but they capture something significant to me.)
The same can be argued with words and technology. We shoot off emails and texts and comment on social media posts, often without thought, and those words are often deleterious in import and content. And I think as writers, we are akin to analogue photographers because when we create, we stop and think and shape the words into something significant, and often we work and re-work the words until they convey just the perfect meaning. Analogue photographers can work and re-work, too, with filters, cropping, and other pre and post-processes.
I’m not a luddite by any means. Please don’t think that. I embrace technology completely—I mean, I just got a new phone because I wanted the better camera on it—but I can also see the value in the old ways. If you haven’t taken an analogue picture in years—or if you’ve never done it—I recommend you do. If you’re a writer, you’ll revel in the experience of crafting an image in a different way.
About the Author
D.S. Dehel is a lover of literature, good food, and the Oxford comma. When she is not immersed in a book, she is mom to her kids and spoiling her rather pampered feline, Mr. Darcy or her equally pampered puppy, Jameson, and her semi-psychotic Australian Shepherd, Piper. Having finally retired, she spends her days dreaming up new plotlines. She adores literary allusions, writing sex scenes, and British men. Actually, make that hot men in general. Her devoted husband is still convinced she writes children’s books. Please don’t enlighten him.