The photograph vs. The written word

Photos and text by Meghan Stone

Both mediums have a special place in my heart. I love literature and reading. My brother is a writer, and I have always imagined that in some small way it was in our blood. Yet, when I sit down and try to express myself through the written word, I feel stuck. In grad school I had no problem churning out research papers and self-reflection essays. Making content for my current job on random topics comes easily. But this is where I struggle… when I’m writing about things I love; putting into words what these things make me feel; what I thought when it was happening. When I sit down to write, I end up writing things that I don’t like. I don’t even come close to expressing the wonder and amazement I felt. But how do I break through what I feel and what I can express on paper? That, I am still trying to figure out.

One of the things that draws me to photography is the photo’s ability to speak for itself. I love that I can frame and snap a photograph, and capture that moment in time. I have a photographic record of the feeling and wonder that I had in that exact moment. I love that photos don’t deliver the same message to everyone. The wonder and feeling that I had might not be expressed exactly how I experienced it, but the viewer will see something. They will have their own experience with the photo and bring away their own feelings and conclusions. Photographs can be so unimposing in that way. They don’t demand anything of you. They are there to be taken in. For those same reasons, I always hesitate to put a title or a caption on a photo. I know that it will always be subject to the viewers’ life experiences and outlook… and I like that. They could look at the same photo and see something completely different. I could look at it and see beauty, and another person could see violence and sadness. There is so much room for inspiration and emotion.

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I would like to share a few of my photographs with you and attempt to put into words what I thought when I captured the shot.

Botellero: Buenos Aires is a modern, booming city, but somehow it manages to maintain an old world feel in certain ways. There are plenty of old practices that still haven’t gone out of style. You can still find the afilador who goes door to door, sharpening knives for a living. And you can still see this: a horse and buggy in the middle of the city. Most of the people who use these collect glass bottles or other recyclable trash to sel. I came across this on my way to work one morning and was moved by the melding of the modern world with the old world.

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North Adams, Mass: This past winter my family took a day trip to my parents’ home town of North Adams, Massachusetts. It was an emotional day as we drove through the streets and visited their old haunts. When we finished the day at the small lake where my grandparents had rented a small cabin, it was especially powerful to see the place where we shared so many memories years ago. For me, the tiny cabin across the lake will always be alive and warm with the love of my mother’s parents.

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Dog walker (Buenos Aires): Believe it or not, this is a common sight on the streets of BsAs. It never fails to put a smile on my face to see one man among an army of dogs trotting down the sidewalk.

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Dos Sillas: Sometimes an image conjures up a particular feeling that you were trying to keep buried. I took this photo only a few months after moving to Buenos Aires. I was lonely and homesick, and for some reason these two chairs made me think of my best friend. Now whenever I see the photo, I always think of her.

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La Playa: Nothing can compare to the first time you go to the beach. Seeing something through the eyes of a child experiencing it for the first is time is almost like re-living that first time yourself. You are able to see the awe and amazement in the smallest things as you watch them take it all in.

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Smile: And then sometimes you just get lucky. You are in the right place at the right time and that perfect shot just gives itself over to you.

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So, is that to say that I prefer the photo over the written word? I could never choose. Literature also has the ability to take the reader to another world. A writer’s job is to create a believable universe where the reader is completely engrossed. Some of my favorite experiences are those where I couldn’t put a book down, couldn’t wait to read the next page, yet I was devastated to finish it. Reading a book for the first time is an experience you can never re-live or repeat. If you read the book again, it would be different. It might be wonderful in other ways, but it would never be the same as the first time. Maybe it’s similar to the first time you see a photo that takes your breath away. You have that first, visceral reaction; a reaction that can’t even be described with words. Just feeling. Experiencing. Taking in.

I will continue to love and struggle with expressing myself through both mediums.

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9 thoughts on “The photograph vs. The written word

  1. Wow, well written! I couldn’t help but think of myself as I read your words. I also have never been much of a writer (although you seem to do very well at it) and have found passion in pictures. They have a way of speaking themselves.

  2. Beautiful words and wonderful photos. What a lovely way to record the times of your life and to share them with others. Makes me feel like we are not so far away.

  3. I love what you’ve done here! Brilliant photos … and don’t ever think you can’t express yourself through words. You’re a natural!

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