Photography is a writer’s friend – part 1)

Photography1Now I’ve always been interested in photography.  I wouldn’t use the word passionate because there have always been other interests that have taken priority. But, photography is something that fits in so well with other interests, especially if those take place in the great outdoors.  I have even dabbled in developing my own black and white photographs in the past.  However, I’m not a purist lamenting the passing of film.  For me the revolution in digital photography is such a boon for the amateur photographer and as a consequence also for the writer.  It has put the ability to take good photographs and then improve, tinker and experiment with them in the hands of anyone with a basic computer and a little patience.

At this point I would say I use the word photography, because it implies a little more than ‘taking photographs’ or ‘snaps’.  It implies thinking about the subject matter and the composition.  And it’s for that reason I think that I still carry an actual camera rather than relying on my mobile phone.  Don’t get me wrong I do use my mobile to take pictures, with some great results, especially if it’s a more spontaneous thing.  Also you never know when a good photograph will present itself and I don’t always have the camera, but I do always have my phone on me.  When I do carry a camera I always used to have an SLR, recently a DSLR.  However I have now moved to a ‘hybrid’ which has interchangeable lenses but is less bulky and about a third of the weight with, for me at least, no sacrifice in quality, flexibility or creative input.  Which since I enjoy walking is all gain and no pain.  It also means I take it with more often than perhaps I might in the past.

So, getting back to the camera being a writer’s friend.  Above I use the word composition, a word that we also use for in creating stories.  For me when I’m looking to take photographs I think about what’s in front of me.  I have to see what is actually there not what my lazy brain wants me to think is there.  If I don’t the composition is all wrong.  Surely a good lesson for writing, when we describe a scene, if we can see it in detail in our minds we are more likely to describe it in a unique, interesting and engaging way than if we do some vague, generic sketch.

photography2A well taken photograph will grab your interest and pull you in, exactly what I hope my stories will do (although of course the latter will take a little longer).  And it does so because of both the subject matter and the composition.  If anything perhaps the composition is more important.  I’m sure we’ve all seen photographs of the mundane and the ordinary that are extraordinary, where the photographer has seen something that everyone else misses until they see his version of that scene.  Again, something that great writers achieve, making us see the everyday in a fresh new light.

Now I’m not pretending I’m any great photographer, but the act of taking photographs does make look at the world in a different way.  However, I would also advise going to much that way, where you look at everything as a potential photograph and forget just to enjoy your surroundings and let your emotions and other senses have a turn, which are just as important for a writer.

Since this is part 1), yes there will be a part two when I’ll look at what else taking those photographs can do for the writer.  As always views and opinions are welcome.

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

2 thoughts on “Photography is a writer’s friend – part 1)”

  1. It is a very real challenge – the one of opening one’s mind to what is actually there, and also trying to understand what someone else would see in a picture of the scene. As a photographer I take photos for other people to see much more than as a record of what I have seen. I have also taken many photos which do not even reflect what I have seen myself – these are the real failures!

    There is also a perspective that Writing can be the Photographer’s Friend – making you think about what it is that you have photographed and whether that then drives you to take a different photo in similar circumstances in the future.

    1. Tim – thanks for the comment and the insight. Back in the days of film how often did I take a photograph thinking that’ll be great and it turned out disappointing, not what you saw in your mind. Sometimes writing can be a bit like that as well, on rereading you realise it’s not what you meant to say.

If you have a view on this, let me know: