‘Photography and poetry have been yoked together for me since I first picked up a camera in 1962. In fact, I became obsessed with photography virtually from that moment, an obsession ignited because I saw in it a way to make poetry – which I’d tried doggedly to write for the three previous years – without suffering the anguish of sitting in place and ceaselessly sifting words together (not imagining how much more pain being a photographer could extract).’ – from Tod Papageorge’s essay, Words for Pictures, in his book Passing Through Eden (found at Alec Soth’s blog)
I’ve read many interviews with authors, and often they recount how as children they were forever making up stories and fashioning little books out of scraps of paper to give to their parents and friends. I was not one of these children. Instead I was (and still am) a prolific journal writer and book reader. In the long list of shoulds that I carry around with me, I’ve often thought that I should’ve been one of those kids. I should be a natural-born storyteller. But last week, as I edited the photos from the christening and put together a gallery of 84 images for my client, I realised that I’ve been telling stories all along – just in different ways. The gallery had a beginning, a middle and an end; it contained emotion and special moments and memories. It told not only the story of the day’s events, but the story that I as the photographer had created.
One of the frustrations I’ve had with writing has been how to describe a scene. I’m very good at conveying the emotion – the internal world – but feel lacking when creating the architecture of the story and a sense of place. Since I’ve picked up a camera again and started moving in a new direction, something has clicked inside me. It’s as if I was casting around for the right medium to communicate what I wanted to say, and now I’ve found it.
Photographs by Diane Arbus
Sunday night I watched a film that rang so many bells in my head. Diane Arbus’s work has always been such an inspiration to me, and I loved the concept of creating a story around the what-ifs of her life. I had to watch it twice: first to enjoy the story, second to watch the images, as if they were still photographs. I’ve always been a film buff, and now I see why. Stories, and images, and words, all tied together. It seems so obvious now. I’m not saying I’m about to become a filmmaker (but, god, wouldn’t that be fabulous?) but I can see a door opening somewhere in the future, a door i’ll want to walk through.