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Is a picture still worth a thousand words? January 7, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in photography.
Tags: , ,

Being back home for Christmas is always a great opportunity to look over old family photos and souvenirs, marvelling at days gone by. I did notice though that all the photos consist of people smiling sweetly, or posed shots of the family sent back to Australia from Hong Kong for my grandparents.

The advent of the digital camera has obviously had a huge impact on news media and citizen journalism, but the vast majority of pictures being taken now are goofy shots with friends that are then posted to MySpace/Facebook/Flickr/etc. This got me thinking about the way we document our lives now; with the ability to record so much more, maybe the picture is no longer worth a thousand words.

A great shot can still transport us back to a particular time and place, but a dozen just like it tend to dull the sensation for me. The memories are almost too accessible, and while there is something to be gained from that, are we losing something at the same time? Just a thought…



1. lalunablanca - January 7, 2008

I’m still in the thousand-word camp. A series of photos can add a different dimension than the one still (say of a family event).

In trying to understand that loss you’re referring to, I don’t know that I have one really. It seems that so many more photos are accessible now.

Whereas previously, they may have been photographed but spent their photographic existence in a shoebox, or better yet, in the same envelope they came in along with the negatives.

I’m enjoying the digital imagery plethora. My only fear is frying a harddrive and forgetting where I backed it up to. Or loosing one of those Xgig photo sticks that hold more and more, but keep getting smaller and smaller.

2. David Gillespie - January 8, 2008

I suppose I’m referring to the immediacy of the event. I saw this movie once where, right at the end there was a line “life isn’t stormy and windswept like our memories”. We tend to recall events with a certain drama; looking back through some photos recently I didn’t get that same feeling as there were just so many shots of a trip.

I also find the things that stick out in my mind aren’t the things I captured on film, maybe because at the time I was just in the moment and not watching for that “thing” to capture; probably explains why I’m a musician and strategist and not a photographer!

3. More on Bluefreeway « David Gillespie’s Wide Open Spaces - January 16, 2008

[…] a dozen different clips from movies all with bridges out ahead and roads falling apart. Whether a picture is still worth a thousand words or not is one thing, but there is little else in this world like a line from Arnie that can make […]

4. nathaliewithanh - June 4, 2008

David Gillespie, I somewhat disagree with your thoughts on digital photography. Yes, today, everybody is a photographer but it does not mean people know how to take a good shot. You may have 100 pictures documenting a single event and yet, none of these will speak to you because they do not capture a particular emotion. Photography is still an art after all. Keep only the few photographs you like. Befriend a photographer. Invite said photographer on next trip. I’m available 😉

5. David Gillespie - June 4, 2008

Nathalie (with an H!), thanks for the comment. I’m fortunate to count a few photographers as very close friends, and I have such respect for what they do. My thoughts above were more towards how the everyman with a camera in his hand (I put myself in that basket) seemed to spend more time these days trying to take a photo of what was going on rather than just existing in the moment.

My friends who are photographers seem to handle that balance really well, as I’m sure you do too =] If you have a link to your work online, I’d love to take a look!

Thanks for stopping by,


6. nathaliewithanh - June 5, 2008

Sorry to crush your illusions but I’m the kind of obsessive-compulsive photographer who has no idea what balance is, who lives for capturing truth and beauty, and who generally travels alone because having someone on board would be distracting. That being said, my friends do not seem to mind.
I think you should look at the photographs from the above-referenced trip in ten years THEN you might look back with nostalgia: “Oh look! Me wrinkle-free, how ’bout that? Good times, good times!” AND edit. Don’t keep 12 good shots of the same thing, keep one. I think it was Helmut Newton who said: “You have to learn to kill your babies” or something similar.
I’ll work on a story just to prove you wrong. Until then, you can see my silly blog at:
There is a link to my sites on the blog.

Good writin’ to you!

Nathalie (with an h)

PS: Have you noticed you touched a nerve here?

7. David Gillespie - June 5, 2008

Touched a nerve? Why that’s what I do (however unintentionally).

Your photographs are extraordinary; they well and truly speak for what you do and much more articulately than us both.

So I’m glad I touched that nerve, I look forward to seeing the work still to come.

And your blog is not silly, I don’t subscribe to silly blogs ;]

8. nathaliewithanh - June 6, 2008

My first subscriber! Woohoo! I feel honored. Since starting to blog seriously, I’ve hardly had any time left for work. I may be 6,000 photographs late but compliments like yours make it all worthwhile.

Mucho Ta!

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