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Photographic writing

‘For me photography is to place head, heart and eye along the same line of sight.’ Henri Cartier-Bresson

‘I’m not going to photograph a squirrel unless that squirrel is playing the banjo, and only then if he’s playing it especially well.’ Tony Gaitskell

There are differences between photography and writing: rainy days don’t suit photography as well as they do writing, and writing doesn't involve lugging awkwardly shaped objects about. But, I've been watching a photographer, and learning stuff from him which will make my writing better:

  • Show something unexpected. Watch always for the weird or resonant, be in the places where they might be found. Climb into a ditch if that’s where it is.

  • Play with light and shadow, foreground and background, the point of focus.

  • Compose in the way that people read. Ride that golden, widening spiral.

  • See how your work looks cropped, or rotated, or redone in black and white. If something is accurate, but doesn't feel true, take it out.

  • Iterate, iterate. Overlay and combine.

  • Ambiguity is beautiful. Allow others to add their own meanings to what you show them. Keep a few secrets.

  • Reveal patterns, reflections, accidental replications. See what happens when you break them.

A photograph is a story written with light and time (as Philippe Halsman and John Berger almost said). In writing I have the luxury of all five senses and freedom to roam in all directions from a single moment. I intend to.

Image by Tony Gaitskell

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