Nearly a year after I published my memoir Dogmeat I sent my editor Mim her first photo of Dr. Wilson, the mentor and tormentor so prominent in the story. It was within the context of an unrelated issue. She wrote back and said that the photo was the spitting image of the way I had described him in the book. Dr. Wilson was exactly the way she had imagined him. I was proud and much pleased with that comment.
With my current book project Mim is suggesting that I include some photos. Many of my stories happen in exotic locales such as Surabaya Indonesia, Portofino Italy, Pebble Beach and San Francisco California, and numerous Turkish locales. I have a large collection of my own photos of these places. I also have photos of numerous details that form crucial elements of the stories, a balloon ride in Cappadocia, an ugly, oversized grey yacht in Portofino Bay, a horse-driven carriage in Buyukada, Istanbul. They are good, compelling pictures; but I am not sure I want to include these.
Mim’s proposal has provoked much thought and a new appreciation of how photography and writing express themselves.
I have been an amateur photographer for nearly thirty years. What I seek to achieve with my pictures is to capture singular details of a flowing, multi-faceted visual environment in a way that a simple, compact image tells a whole story or evokes a range of emotion. The expressive process expands out of the photo, blossoming into a tale in the observer’s mind.
I have been a professional writer for a lesser time. I have now come to realize that what I hope to achieve with a given scene in a story is for the reader to form an image, or maybe a brief series of images, a movie, of that scene in their minds as they read it. The expressive process is a contraction of numerous words into images. The more accurately I do this the more successful I am. This is why I was so pleased with Mim’s comment about Dr. Wilson.
Writing and photography are flip sides of the same coin in their expressive intent, each evoking the other.
This brings me back to my dilemma. How can I give away what I hope to evoke with my stories by providing photos? Wouldn’t that short circuit the process?
There are numerous formats where writing and photos do mix together, newspapers and magazines being foremost on the list. There must be a proper mix, a happy medium for the two. I am not certain where this is.
In the meanwhile, with my Appassionata story I am letting those who have read it soak it in and then later, showing them photos of Alberobello, the trulli houses and the real Mimmo, a prominent character in the story. I am enjoying the smiles of recognition in their faces.