A Picture is Worth…. Part 2

In an earlier epistle I commented that sometimes a picture could be enhanced by words. I then blithely went on to talk about how to make a picture or combination of pictures speak for themselves without words.

Recently I read an article that repeated the saying “A picture is worth a 1,000 words” and I had an “ah-ha!” moment. And that thought was…”sometimes, not all the time, a picture is literally worth a 1,000 word essay”! Whether the essay is an explanation of its environment and setting, or the feelings and emotions felt and depicted in and through the image, there are times when words will add another layer of color and hue to it.

National Geographic gets this. Guess it was time for me to understand this applies to my personal collection of snapshots. Take for example this picture:

Now just looking at the picture of two bats clinging to the ceiling may be relatively boring (it really is) and the photo itself is not a National Geographic prize, however here’s the background on it…the information that gives it more meaning and color.

Gmama, Analise and I took an hour long drive to see what Dan Nicholas Park in Salisbury NC had to offer to kids of all ages. When we arrived, we obtained a map of the park and discovered there were a good many things to do, so we chose just a few activities with one of them the Rowan Wildlife Adventures, a small zoo within the park.

Paying our tiny fee of $2.50 we strolled through the exhibits starting with the Bald Eagle cage. It was so hot and humid, the eagle sat on the highest branch looking majestic as it surveyed its domain. Walking to the second exhibit, we discovered it was the bear enclosure. Peeking through one window we saw the bear on the other side of the enclosure ambling around a pool of murky, green-tinted water. Eventually the bear came waddling up to our side of the enclosure but went under the viewport ledge where we could no longer see it. So we had to move to another area where we could see the bear. Trying the second viewing area, the bear was out of sight so we continued to the third area with plans on spotting the critter one more time before moving on.

To get to the third viewport, we had to go into a man-made cave. It was only 20 feet in length and the sun’s rays and the viewing window provided more than enough light. And it was cooler in the shade of the cave. To add to the ambiance of the cave, “someone” made spooky sounds. Once arriving at the bay window, it was easy to see the bear again on the other side of its environment, which was quickly followed up by the statement “okay, now we can go.”

So retracing our footsteps out of the small cave, Analise found and climbed on one of the “rocks.” I mentioned to her to look up and see the mud wasp nests along the ceiling and upper walls. There were no mud wasps to be found but it still prompted Analise to climb down to the cave floor. I then noticed a darker mud wasp nest on the ceiling a few steps into the cave and was curious why it was a different color – my initial thought was that it was wet. Moving closer (aka standing underneath it) I was surprised to find out the “nest” was in fact two small bats snuggled up against each other. Being careful not to disturb them, I snapped a photo and we left the bear exhibit.

So, while our visit was to see the creatures, large and small, that were part of the zoo exhibits, we also observed some creatures not enclosed…like the bats. It turned out to be an unexpected surprise to a day full of activities.

So though this short essay is not a 1,000 words (473 to be exact) in length, without it the picture is meaningless. So now imagine a picture you have taken. What words could be added to make it jump out at people? To remind people of a place and time, an event or trip? Sometimes pictures speak without the need for words and sometimes they need an assist. Sometimes the thousands of photographs we take need a story to go along with them.

Why?

To help explain the setting, the people, the feeling, the scents, the sounds, and the overall impact that place and time had on us. Without the stories, photographic memories may lose their way and get lost.

My parents were ones to capture every moment and as a result had boxes and shelves full of photographs. Some of the pictures were with my brothers and me; others were from trips and get togethers they shared with each other and not with us. No stories exist for their photos and our parents have passed on. Pictures of mountains in places unknown cry out for someone to use their voice to fill in the gaps of the where, when, and why of the picture. Pictures of people, who lives may have been impacted, remain stranded with no tale to tell.

It is sad in so many ways. Words lend feelings to photos. Words create a world we will never see again. Words add meaning where no meaning could otherwise be found. Words take a static picture and breathe life into it and to the people and scenes they depict.

So, yes, in my opinion a picture, if it merits keeping, is worth 1,000 words…both figuratively and literally. Gmama and I have taken so many pictures that we realize a lot of them will end up in a landfill or recycling bin. Why? Because there are no words that tell the story of why that particular photograph was worth keeping.

Time to cull our photographs and write stories for those we keep.