A Picture or a Thousand Words? Debbie Bennett

I’m not a particularly gifted photographer. When I was a child, I’d think carefully about every shot – whether or not I wanted to pay money for it; back in those days you had to get every picture developed before you threw away most of them and kept the few decent ones; back in those days, flashes came on a little rotating cube that burned out and got thrown away after 4 pictures… yes, I am that old.

My parents always said that I had to photograph a person. If all I wanted was countryside or something 'pretty', it was cheaper to buy a postcard and probably better quality too. So it was many years before I got into the mindset of photographing scenes. Now I have a corner of my hall with little snaps I’ve taken over the years. Disney’s castle from an unusual angle, the derelict pier at Weston-super-Mare, a stone circle in Ireland, the window to another world (another blog post of mine, that’s actually the view from Harlech Castle). Invariably they are all slightly ‘odd’ – quirky shots. Something different. maybe that's just me!

It’s so much easier with digital photography. I can take my little camera, or even my iphone now, and capture just about anything I want in a picture, and then photoshop it to within an inch of its life - or I could if I knew what to do with photoshop. I even find I look at photos with a more analytical eye and see them as potential book covers.

So many of these snapshots have become inspiration for stories or scenes. The little Spanish town on the right is, I think, Cassares, if I remember correctly. I visited on a coach trip from Gibraltar once and it became the scene for a post-apocalyptic short story set in the Spanish Sierra Nevada mountains. I took a whole series of photographs in America in one of the canyon national parks which became an entire town in a fantasy novel I'm working on, with caves and a waterfall. Sometimes you only need the photos as a trigger to remember how places sounded and smelled and you can bring them alive again.

The blurry red photo is actually my daughter at the top of our road in the snow. This is one of my husband's - he's got a posh digital SLR camera and was playing with coloured filters. It's almost ghostly and I keep thinking of photoshopping out the shadow ...

I think as writers, we need to be aware of photography too. Even if, like me, you just mess around with a cheap camera or phone, there are so many possibilities to capture an image that can hold a memory and perhaps a scene or potential entire story in the future.


Nick Green said…
Taking great photographs is a real talent. I love those examples you have here. It's about knowing how to look at things. Which I'm hopeless at. I don't have a visual brain at all.

I once read an amusing article in which a magazine editor pointed out that a picture isn't worth a thousand words. It's worth two thousand. The cost of printing a full-colour picture that took up a whole page was roughly the same as the cost of printing two thousand words.
Lee said…
Photos as inspiration: one way to think about this is that photos call out for imaginative engagement; without context, most are 'unreadable'.

If you're interested in the start of interesting discussion, have a look at this piece on a photograph I've been looking at in amazement for some time:


It's true the process of taking pictures is much easier and cheaper now, just as publishing books is easier and cheaper... but no amount of technology will ever replace the artistic eye/talent/soul. (You've clearly got that 'eye', Debbie!)
Debbie Bennett said…
Hubby has a posh camera - he gets magazines and talks about lenses and "rules of thirds". I can't be doing with all that. I have a little digital Kodak and it's small and simple but does all the hard work, so I just play with composition.
julia jones said…
Thanks Lee - tremendously interesting article and photographs. Way outside my expertise but I've copied the link for my youngest who's studying both history and photography of A level. He's hugely resistant to anything offered by parents but I don't see how he could fail to be interested in this photos (being irreverent doesn't the modern, coloured version look like David Tennant!)
julia jones said…
Yes Debbie I DO remember those strange little flash cubes and the give thanks regularly for the sweet biddable nature of my digital camera
Lydia Bennet said…
lovely pix, do you have a Pinterest board? great for sharing photos.
Debbie Bennett said…
Not ventured into Pinterest yet. Not since its inception when the t&c were draconian. I believe it's a bit more relaxed now - maybe I'll look into it when I can face yet another time-suck-site....
Lee said…

Hi Julia, my youngest is also studying history (though not photography). In fact, she's now in Jerusalem spending a year abroad at Hebrew University.

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