A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words--Or Is It?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A tremendous post came through on my Facebook page the other day about the discovery and processing of 31 Rolls of undeveloped film taken by a soldier during WWII. The film was processed as part of The Rescued Film Project and the results are amazing. Thirty-one rolls full of stunning historical photographs that no one has ever seen before.

As I sat watching a few of the photographs pass by on screen, I couldn't help thinking how much more poignant they would be with explanations of who, what, where, when and maybe even why? I wanted to know who the young soldier was who appeared in so many of the photos; what country were they in and where were they headed as they gathered at the train station in a city that did not look like any I'd ever seen in the United States? How long had they been away from home?  As extraordinary as the pictures were, I wanted to know more. I couldn't help thinking how much more significant the find would be with explanations. I longed for the words. The text. The verbiage.

This brought up the familiar saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words." Like the saying itself, it's origin sparks discussion. One source called it an "Old English Idiom." Another attributed it to Frederick R. Barnard, who mentioned it in an article about the effectiveness of graphics in advertising, in the early 20th Century. Mr. Barnard claimed it came from a Japanese philosopher.

The saying, like the age-old question, "which came first the chicken or the egg?" is one to which there is no right answer. I would agree that in some aspects of the art world, the saying might hold true, but for me, as a writer, the absence of words in the WWII photographs was a disappointment. The images touched my heart, moved me in unexpected ways and made me want to know more.

Ironically, as I sat down with my husband later that evening to watch one of the Netflix movies that had come in the mail, I was shocked and delighted to find a title, picked at random, I might add, called, Words and Pictures. Filmed in 2013, the film, featuring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche as instructors at a prep school, is about a debate they sparked in their students to answer the question, "A picture is worth a thousand words...or is it?"

I can't answer that question. I'm not sure anyone can. But I challenge everyone of you, especially all my writer friends, to rent Words and Pictures. Those of you who love words will delight in the battle between the two instructors to find multi-syllable words. The romance that emerges is also interesting. In my opinion, this film is well worth time taken out of your busy day. A must see for writers everywhere.

Is a picture worth a thousand words? What do you think?

The Rescued Film Project

Word and Pictures Trailer

Sandra Warren has published works in multiple genres. Her latest book, We Bought A WWII Bomber peaked her interest in the initial Facebook posting referred to in this post.

We Bought A WWII Bomber Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUmxqhIpadI



Gretchen said...

How interesting, Sandra. Now you've increased my curiosity about World War two even more. Yes. These pictures should inspire thousands of words. I remember teaching a lesson about a poet who went to yard sales to buy old black and white pictures. He wrote poems about them not knowing anyone in the pictures.
How about this turn...Could a word be worth a thousand pictures?

Carol Baldwin said...

I loved this thoughtful post, Sandra. Thanks for sharing it on the list serve. I'm in training this week for an arts integration project and I wish I could here all the teachers and artists answer that question! We've been using pictures as prompts asking the same questions you asked of those WWII pics. I guess I'd be on the side to say that words tell the better story-- but I'd never stopped to think about the saying before this post!

Sandra Warren said...

You are right, Carol.

Words paint better pictures, unlimited ones because each word read conjures up a different image in each reader's mind.

A picture is more one-dimensional because the viewer either accepts or rejects what they are looking at, especially if the picture relates to a story. The picture forces a singular concept of what the words mean.

I'm sure this could be discussed over and over with multiple opinions flying around the room.

Thanks for your comment, Carol.


Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Sandra,
How intriguing your topic is - especially in view of the pictures without words that left you puzzled and full of questions of who, when, where, how, and why?

Good luck with discovering a few of the answers for which you search.

Never Give Up

Sandra Warren said...

Thank you Joan!

This would be a very interesting topic to discuss at the SCBWIC conference. I loved the debate on the movie, Words and Pictures. Get it from Netflix and see for yourself.


Linda A. said...

Long lost photos--what a treasured find! Thanks for the movie recommendation too!

I think this may not be the last time you post on this topic. Keep this alive. It is calling you.


Kathleen said...

Sandra, such a wonderful, thought provoking post. I enjoyed reading about your hearttfelt emotion for and curiosity about the stories behind the newly discovered WWII pictures. When I go to antique or thrift stores, I love to look at the old pictures that are there. I wonder who they were and how their pictures ended up in that store. I also love reading messages sent on the old postcards, wondering what the relationship between the two people might have been like. I definitely plan to rent WORDS AND PICTURES.

Sandra Warren said...

Thanks for you comments Linda and Kathleen. It is an intriguing topic and conjures up all kinds of responses.

I'm with you, Kathleen, when you say you wonder about photos in antique stores. Sometimes it makes me sad to think that those folks in the old photographs belonged to families, were loved or maybe tolerated or maybe even despised. I also wonder who disposed of the old photos? So many images captured and then discarded.

Let me know what you thought of the movie.

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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