This blog post was written by Program Intern Olaya Barr.
For me, photography and writing are nearly inseparable arts. To create a vivid short story, I can’t help imagining how the characters, the setting, the colors and emotion of the narrative would transpire on film. Why? Probably because of my obsession with photography… but also because I consider imagery so important to making a narrative –whether in fiction, non-fiction, or poetry form– feel real and present. I want my words to help illustrate the mood, the emotion, the sensory details of a time and place.
It’s fun to write a story and then search for an apt way to illustrate it visually; but more often than not, I find myself discovering an image that sparks my whole story, that gets the creative ball rolling. I think working in both directions – writing a story and then creating an abstract or literal image to match it, or choosing an image and then basing a story off of it – are very helpful exercises.
When I’m in a dead end writing-wise, when I feel I have no urgent story within me that needs to be shared, I look at photos for inspiration to start a story based on an a totally foreign image. From the look of a stranger’s face, from the way the sun shines on a different land, from the facial expressions or gestures, food or clothing, I suddenly can invent a story worth telling from a striking photograph.
The most fun part about this is that I feel empowered by my invention. The photograph gives me clues, gives me a departure point, but it’s up to me to put together the puzzle pieces in my own way. What strange little details jump out at you? Who are the subjects? What is the relationship between them? What’s the temperature they feel, what are the sounds they hear? What made this captured day different or special? What are their hopes, anxieties, fears, and desires?
From the dawn of cave-dwelling storytellers, people have relied on images to compliment their stories. An image can encapsulate an entire universe of its own, and one of the wonderful aspects of writing is that we can immerse ourselves in a different point of view and transport ourselves into a new world. I think this practice not only helps us in our art, but it also makes us more empathetic beings.
For some inspiration, check out this awesome list of 30 women photographers under 30!