Saturday, October 25, 2008

Garden Views: Writing with Pictures

Four decades ago, it was possible to write garden books and magazine articles that contained few, if any, photos. But not today. In today’s garden writing world, the pictures ARE the story. Some publications start with the photographs and the writer is asked to write the story specifically to the pictures. Others may use photos to illustrate a story. In some cases, such as a book about a specific garden, or specific objects within gardens (such as sheds), it would be impossible to write the piece without the pictures.

Literary writers might lament the passing of an era when detailed, evocative descriptions could “paint a picture” of a garden in words, but those of us in the trenches know that the right picture IS “worth a thousand words.”

Necessity has caused us to stretch beyond our natural writing gift into an arena that uses the right side of the brain, which deals with patterns and spatial relationships. I started out taking “inventory” photos that simply document what is there, leaving the art to the “real” photographer, who would come later.

But I always had a good sense of composition and color, as well as friends who paint landscapes and garden vignettes. I admired garden photographers who could create works of art from the most mundane scenes. I wanted to make something that reflected the enjoyment I got from their work. Soon I was trying my own hand at taking artsy garden photos and pictures of flowers a la Georgia O’Keefe.

I still have a long way to go. But I now feel more confident about the quality of my photos, I enjoy this necessary part of my job much more than I used to, and I am looking forward to taking an internet-based class during the off season.

Look around at the necessary evils of your own art. Perhaps there is something you can explore, something that will stretch you, something that might even turn into fun.

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