Monday, May 25, 2009

Photographs and writing

An excellent post on the blog of Alex Keegan, my ex-creative writing tutor. AK holds writing residentials at his home, in which you work, work, work for three or four days solid. His whole approach is about unlocking what is inside you, letting your unconscious take the lead. He writes:

On Photo Prompts

I see this morning, a book launched, Twenty Photos, Twenty Stories where every story in the book is joined by the photograph it comes from. See here: http://vanessagebbiesnews.blogspot.com/2009/05/sometimes-far-from-being-negative-thing.html

My story “Miguel Who Cuts Down Trees” came from a series of unconnected (but all haunting) photographs, most of which I saw at an exhibition in the V&A Museum.

At Writing Courses we regularly toss out photographs and magazines and ask all the writers to find 1-2-3 pictures that, for them, ache. Those words, for them, are important.

Dorothea Brande, in “On Writing”, once wrote how two writers seeing something will not react the same. For one the image or incident might not “connect”. For the other the image might cut to the bone, go to the soul, open up dark caverns, release memories.
Brande explains that when things “connect” like that, whether we know it or not, there is something primitive going on, possibly a repressed memory, maybe (this is me) the image connects because of tribal memory, or ghosts, or possession. Who knows (and why should we care?) What matters is we can feel the photograph SWELLING. It has power. The photograph is like a poetry prompt but probably stronger, richer, more resonant, echoing. Bleeding, pulsating.

Can anyone look at the plane hitting the tower and not get a visceral response? Can we look at the belly-swollen child, flies on her face and not feel?

Photographs, move us, great photographs move us greatly.

If you’re stuck for ideas, blocked, or worse, just “flat” search out some photographs and let them do their work on you.


Excellent advice.

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