Importance of Words
As human beings as social creatures have adapted, they have built a society formulated around words and feelings. From the earliest ages humans have used words to express what was happening around them, whether it was chaos or beauty; happiness or turmoil, they found a way to express it all. But of course, some things were harder to express than others. Take for instance a mother who just lost her only child, no words come to mind when watching her struggle through her own feelings, words are choked down by sobs and drowned in sorrow, to her observer there would simply be no way to tell someone how she is feeling besides using simple words like, sad, and grieving. In another instance there is a little girl who found her favorite stuffed animal after having lost it weeks prior, this stuffed animal was gifted to her by her father, just before he was deployed to Iraq.
Both moments hold an immense amount of feeling and emotion, but how does one capture the magnitude of these feelings in writing? It’s much more difficult, but with the creation of Photography, words that cannot be expressed are recorded with a simple device and pressed into film, to be shared with the public. No matter how extensive our knowledge becomes as human beings, we will never have the words to describe or explain everything we experience. It is because of this very reason that photographs have the ability to change the world in a way that other art forms cannot. Photography provides a diverse mindset in society, explains Marcus Bleasdale in his article, “The impact of Images.” All it takes is one picture to change the world, or at least someone’s perspective of it. One snap of a camera and someone’s life is changed. Society today sometimes underestimates the weight of such a thing as a photograph.
The common saying that pictures speak a thousand words has many meanings to different people. “Whether it is in lecture halls in universities across the world or just in a public classroom,” Catalin Zorzini explains in his article A Better Understanding, “educators use photos to better explain their points. Illustrations help people understand things better and there is no better method of illustrating ideas than by using photos and in the current world, videos.” In order to best understand how and why the photograph is one of the most impactful forms of art there is, one must first understand how the photograph is used. Like most ingenious creations, it began with an idea, mainly a question, how can I capture this moment in time? This was a question pondered over for centuries, “from before Aristotle up into Renaissance times.”(Zorzini). The questions changed form and shifted, but in principle remained the same throughout the years.
Importance of Pictures
The first picture – as we know it – was taken in 1825 by a French inventor Joseph Niepce. It depicts a view from the window at Le Gras, a hotel he was staying at the time of this event. This picture was taken using a system called heliography. There is little merit in this picture other than the fact that it is the first photograph taken and preserved. This “first Photo,” was by no means the perfect photo, but around it, the premise for what a photograph was supposed to look like, was formed. Over time, as the camera has changed thanks to new technology and so have the quality and meanings in photographs. What is a photo? A photo is a story, a revelation, an uncovering of a person’s life. “In the blink of an eye, a moment is frozen in time.” (Wilkins). With a device now of such a small size, a person is able to capture anything, whether it simply be a funny moment, of the most pivotal event in someone’s life, they’ve caught it.
Pictures are also used to tell stories, and stories are integral to human culture and storytelling is timeless. In the practice of photography, “visual storytelling is often called a photo essay or photo story,” as Wilkins explains in his article, “Capturing the Moment of Impact.” It’s a way for the photographer to narrate a story with a series of photographs. Storytelling is considered an art so, as Leo Tolstoy said, “it should be utterly infectious, where it infects the viewer with the feelings he or she has lived through so that other people are infected in turn by these experiences.” When a photographer sets out to take pictures they aren’t simply “taking pictures,” they are venturing out to capture a specific moment in time, “a moment that inspires them to share their own perspective.” (Wilkins).
They, of course, don’t always know what they will capture, but that is the beauty of photography. As documentary photographer Kaushik Ghosh, once said: “What your mind does not know, your eyes can’t see.” In nearly every photograph there is a message the photographer wants the viewer to receive, whether it’s as simple as saying “nature is powerful,” or as complex telling a story, the message is there. Much like a recipe, the perfect photograph or perfect message has many ingredients. Many photographers attempt to use the light around their subject (what they’re taking a picture of) to further their message. While it is important to have proper lighting in a photograph, In photography light is also used for contrast, and it adds depth to the picture. “ Lighting is a key factor in creating a successful image. Therefore, it is necessary to control and manipulate light correctly in order to get the best texture, vibrancy of color and luminosity on your subjects.” (Wilkins). Once the photographer understands lighting they can then use it to their advantage.
A child sitting on a bench alone covered by the shade of a large tree will then signify loneliness to the viewer whereas if the photographer had gotten closer to the child the tree may not have been visible, meaning the shade of the tree wouldn’t be noticeable. Something as simple as “lighting has the power to change the entire meaning of a photograph.” (Wilkins) The same concept applies to all factors in a photograph, shadow, composition, and when taking a picture of a person, facial expressions and body posture have just as much impact. Because emotion is also universal. Another factor that very few people consider when they are thinking about how to get a stronger message out into the public, is how many pictures they decide to publish. This is a factor discussed on many photography forums, whether someone should narrate a story with multiple photographs or one. In her article “Too Graphic?” Arielle Emmet explains that a single image (in relation to documentary photography) is only a “half-truth.”
This is because that one photograph never answers the most fundamental question when it comes to any story, which is, “why?”. What does this mean? When talking about photographs, an image might be partly true, but it is only part of the whole truth and a snapshot of the bigger picture. This leaves part of our brain to interpret the image on its own, therefore making it difficult to always understand the photographer’s message. Not all single images tell a story. Each individual picture serves as a chapter in the story, and each chapter eventually leads to the climax. Using a series of images helps the viewers brain to better process each image as a whole.
A series can provide several ideas whereas using one single image usually emphasizes only one idea. Both of these methods have their own advantages and both are used all around the world in our everyday lives. The next most important part of changing the world with a picture, or several. Is deciding which pictures hold the most impact potential. A photographer may have some brilliant pictures that are technically perfect, explains Marcus Bleasdale in his article on “The Impact of Images,” “but there are two particular elements that make a strong image even stronger.” When appealing to an audience the “easiest and most effective way to hold their attention, is with emotions,” (Bleasdale). Not all images must contain a human element in order to be emotionally moving, it could be anything from a landscape to a still life. The images should evoke a strong emotional feeling in the viewer’s psyche. The images should also be thoughtfully layered and full of meaning. This is how you engage your viewer’s attention for a longer period of time. This is usually the most difficult process of telling a story with photographs.
Photography helps to preserve our culture.with society continuing to advance a quickly as it is, some cultural practices can only be viewed using photographs since their practice are becoming extinct. In today’s society, the weight of photography as a monumental development is not as obvious as it was years ago. Arielle points out in her article that “ editors are becoming more cautious about what they put out, they don’t want to offend their viewers.” As society continues to develop many news and media companies are losing their audiences. No longer do people value the photography aspect of news as they once did. As news becomes quickly and readily available on electronic devices, many traditional photographers are losing their jobs. While technological advancement is not by any means a bad thing, it is leading people to become less connected with the world they live in, rather than the world they choose to observe on their screens. With this disconnect continuing to spread, the raw impact photography is able to provide is only becoming more vital to reconnect the people of the world.
As previously mentioned, words can only go so far. How can a simple article in a newspaper describe hell? “It was a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12.” (Emmet). This earthquake killed an estimated 230,000 people and injured “perhaps 3 million” (Emmet). In the midst of this tragedy unfolding, the situation was originally only described with words and numbers, and nobody truly understood the magnitude of this event. “All they saw were numbers on a page, nothing to really connect or relate to.” (Emmet). But soon the pictures would come rolling in, “one by one…then they came in torrents,” images of unimaginable suffering.” (Emmet). It was with the publishing of these photos that people began to really help out, more international aid poured in that it had when all that there was to support these horrible claims were words. With the help of photography peoples, lives were saved, hundreds of thousands of people were kept alive and all thanks to this one technological advancement.