A Comparison of Words and Pictures

Words and pictures both have equal places in my heart as I feel they both compliment each other nicely. Words seem to organize the thoughts and feelings one has while staring at a photo or piece of artwork and art seems to fill in the little cracks and crevices and – in some instances – gaping holes that words leave behind. Neither is a perfect tool for expression and both leave a little something to be desired in the end. It seems that in our image-capturing, whether in art or photography, and in our writing, no matter how beautiful a picture we create or poem we may pen, it will never match the glories of the real world that is all about us. As an artist and writer, this is often frustrating for me, as I’ve devoted much of my life to discovering better and better ways to present the world as I see it to my readers/viewers. However, what I think I’ve really discovered in only a few years of truly trying is that the world is far too vast, too intense, too abstract and simply too huge for me to ever totally capture, with either words or pictures. In a way, this is maddening, and I believe it is an affliction that all artists face. But in another sense it is beautiful, and right, that it should be that way. If I could express the world as perfectly as I would like, I think I would lose the joy of mystery and discovery that the world represents. And that would be a terrible loss indeed.

In association to personal writing memoirs, such as diaries and letters, for which I have a special fondness, to me, it represents memory. There is a peculiar and at times overwhelming sense of nostalgia and familiarity wrapped up in the pages of an old journal or along the worn, hand-scrawled loose-leaf of a letter. The gift of being able to look back and glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of the person you once were is amazing to me. I believe that is what fuels my appreciation for the past so much, no one never stays the same and no thing does either. The world and the people in it are constantly changing and shifting with the tides of life. It always fascinates me to go back and visit the girl I used to be, able to see and appreciate the changes that the years have brought. There is accomplishment and pride there, a sense of overcoming and growth that I enjoy.

Something else I appreciate in diaries/journals and letters is the aesthetic of them. There’s something wholly pleasing about cracking open a journal book and tracing your fingers over the ink, observing the intricacies of your own handwriting. To do this with a book belonging to someone else or a letter written by another is also very intimate. There is more soul to be found in a person’s handwritten prose, no matter how messy or short or un-poetic that writing may be, than in a typed computer document, no matter how profound and beautiful the words.

As for photographs, there is something about drowning in simple emotions and thoughts without words that I enjoy, even if, as a writer, I am driven to put everything into words that I can. There is something to be said for merely looking rather than analyzing and struggling to understand that which we can’t truly express. That is why I enjoy photography and art. In photography, I am able to capture moments as they happen, moments where I was too caught up in what was happening to worry about describing it or figuring it out. On camera, a photo is taken of the times when life is too full for words and you are able to go back and revisit it and remember simply how it felt, without needing to explain it. I like that.

In art, it is similar, but instead of a quick capture of thoughts and feelings, you dedicate precious time to creating them on a canvas or sketchpad. Words are not needed, the image will speak for itself if you can tune it just right. It is more difficult and complex than photography, and takes a great deal more patience, but the results are very satisfying. Capturing something exactly as you wanted in a drawing or painting is just about the most fulfilling thing there is.

Both words and pictures play a fundamental part in art and expression, and I believe that they build one another up and should be used that way. There is no conceivable way to trap the universe in one’s poetry or story or photograph or painting, but between all these mediums we may find something almost close enough. Not close enough to satisfy of course, for if we were satisfied, what need would we have to continue creating? But perhaps just close enough to give us hope to keep trying.


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