One of my most vivid memories of primary school here in New Zealand is of the ‘creative writing’ period; an hour in the day wherein we’d do nothing but write. Perhaps that’s a little bit of an exaggeration; this was at a time when we were earning our ‘pen licence’ (you were only given permission to write in pen if you were ‘neat’ enough) and essentially learning how to properly form letters.
Thankfully, having lived and gone to school for a couple years in Europe, I had very neat and tidy handwriting and as such was not subjected to the writing ‘tests’, instead I was to either do more creative writing or learn to touch-type; I chose the former.
I was given a photo, one with a rather ambiguous subject or weird distortion and asked to write a story about it. One of the first ones I was given, I clearly remember, was of bubbles that, in the light of the sun, appeared bright purpled. I can’t quite remember what I wrote about but I suspect there was an alien or two involved.
One day I was given a photo of clouds; nothing but a blue sky filled with two mammoth puffs, like exhalations from a giant on a cold day, of white candy-floss. As I gazed into those two white clouds I began to see shapes, people mostly but animals too, and so I spun my story.
It’s quite fascinating how the mind can create shapes, images and stories from completely ambiguous images. Pareidolia, the phenomena is called; the ability to perceive patterns where there are none.
Photos, of any sort (whether they’re ambiguous or not), are fantastic prompts for us visual writers. They let our imagination run amok; free of the potentially constrictive nature of our words. Our imagination doesn’t need words to work, it just needs ideas, concepts, images and perhaps the occasional thought.
The best thing I did for my writing in 2013 (or so) was signing up for a Pinterest account. There I created ‘boards’ (collections of photos or images) for many things but primarily for inspiration. But it’s been a long time that I’ve dragged a story from a picture instead of using them as an aid, a visual crutch. Perhaps I ought to try it again.
Have you ever pulled a story from a photo?
Thanks for reading,