Good post, Jack. That's more or less how I view the role of the photograph.
Yes, it can be exactly like that, but I have a feeling that photography, like painting or even music, can be about the verbally inexpressible too and is, in fact, more suited to that than to something that can be described in words.
I agree 100% with this sentiment. I believe a truly good photograph not only "is worth a thousand words" but also effectively transfers moods, feelings, etc. that cannot adequately be put into words.
The problem is, where something can be written, the author has the power to be precise (should he wish) and to give a single meaning to his writings unless he chooses to confound, obfuscate, be 'artistic' and mess around with semantics for the hell of it, or in order to further his literary career.
There is a tremendous complexity to writing to be sure. It is hard enough for most folks to be "exact" in what they say, let alone to have such a command of the language that they can carry subtle (and even twisted/ironic/hidden) meaning to what they say.
The great failure in communication that graphic images suffer is their very inabilty to be as precise as the written word: they are always wide open to viewer interpretation, which can be a huge failure indeed.
I don't follow you here. In fact, my belief would be the exact opposite of this: unless we are discussing mathematical equations in a textbook, it is the written word which will never
be as precise as the photograph.
For example, if I describe a woman's beauty to you, I could speak of her full, red lips, the creamy complexion of her skin, the golden curls that dance about her shoulders and back as she walks away ... and you will begin to form "an image" in your mind of the woman ... but it will be an entirely different image than what I am seeing in my mind (what Ray is seeing in his mind, etc.).
By contrast, if I took a photograph of the exact woman I was writing about, then you, Ray, and I would all be seeing the same
face, the same
complexion, the same
golden hair, etc. ... whereas none of us would be seeing the same identical image in our minds based solely on a verbal description. And this truth of infinite variance would obtain whether I was verbally trying to describe a sunset, a mountain range, the detailed intricasy of an insect's body armor, etc., etc. There is simply no way that written words will ever create an "identical image" in all minds in the same fashion as will a photograph.
Thus, in the end, even the greatest writers and authors will never
be able to communicate with the same exactness as what is communicated in a photograph, at least not in the ability to describe what we see physically. However, when describing the complexity of emotions (lost love, the "hows" and "whys" behind a smile), then I agree the written word is able to ad lib
to the photograph, and so to tell a more detailed human story about what is being seen visually in a person's facial expressions.
For example, if I took a photograph of the golden-haired woman smiling a Mona Lisa
smile, the photograph would allow us ALL to be on the exact same page as to what she looks like ... but yet there could be ten thousand "different interpretations" as to why
she is smiling, what was on her mind, etc. This is where the written word could be more exact, in explaining the nuances behind facial expressions. For if I personally knew why she was smiling, and I wrote a caption under the photograph stating exactly what that reason was, then there would be no more room for interpretation.
So I guess I see your point that the written word can give more precision than the photograph, in some ways, I still hold that there is no person on earth who can write well enough to exactly transfer what something looks like
as well as can a photograph.
So as to a single picture being worth a thousand words - only sometimes.
I believe, in virtually every instance, it would take at least
a thousand words to describe every detail of all that can be seen in any photograph ... and that after this writing effort had been completed there still would be vastly different "images" placed in the minds of every individual who read the passage (without seeing the photograph) ... and that no writing effort alone could come anywhere near to providing the kind of precision and uniformity of what the actual photograph
of that same subject instantly would confer upon the viewer.