Friday, February 8, 2013

Photo's Inspire Storytelling (Part 2)

   For many of us, our first photo it taken    before we even  leave the hospital so proud parents can share a picture of their new little bundle of joy with grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends. From that day on, it seems picture taking is part of our life  - we have pictures of our 1st birthday, first day of school, first dance; Family pictures, travel photos, wedding pictures, and pictures with our pals.

   Edora Welty wrote, " A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away".  I agree. Not only does it keep a moment from running away, but they can also be a good tool for writers to help them develop character, description  and plot.

   As a quick exercise take a look at this picture

  Almost immediately we can determine  it is from a different era . The picture shows a young woman alone. She is carrying a valise, and seems to be dressed for travel. We wonder where she's going, or is she just arriving ?  If going, why is she  leaving? We might ask ourselves if she has family, what kind of background does she come from? By her stance, does she appear confident, or apprehensive ?  I see a  kindly woman with a good sense of humor, who likes to laugh -  generous and loving, she will enjoy learning about people and places  her whole life long.   (My Grandma Vera Williams Cooney - after she graduated Council Bluffs High School in 1916,  just arriving Woodbine, Iowa to attend Secretarial school)

   Or this photo


       What type of story might it tell ? The man is wearing a work uniform of some sort, there is a change guard  at his waist. In the background we can identify gasoline pumps dating back to the 1920's.  Is the man a drifter, a part time employee, just passing through town ? Or do we see a  hard worker, spending long hours pumping gas, a man of faith, devoted to his family ?   Perhaps he is the  owner of the station who recently signed an operating  agreement with Standard Oil    Company  of Indiana  on a cool spring day in March 1928, regarding commissions , and will become a familiar face, a man admired for his good deeds by   all in his community even after he retires  in the late 1960's.     (My Uncle Joe Norton taking a break from pumping gas at his station )

   Carrie Mumford, editor and website consultant living in Calgary, Alberta says  " since I discovered  my love of photos mixed with writing ,  I've been using photo search to help out when I get stuck. Photos can be especially useful if you're writing historical fiction since it's sometimes hard to imagine what something or someone might have looked like. Photos are also useful tools for writing about places you have never been before."

   "As I see it", says Mumford, "using photographs as writing prompts is an opportunity to 'run away' with the captured moments that Endora Welty speaks about. Take a captured moment in a photo and turn it into a story, or use it to help add depth to a story you're already working on. Perhaps the story will not end up like the photo at all but if it gets you writing , it will be well worth the effort!"

   For me, using old photos from family albums, like the two above, and these two pictured here

               ( My maternal grandmother Vivian [ far left], playing with   cousin Vera Marie (center) and dollies                                                                      
                      at their Aunt Mary's house - Council Bluffs, Iowa)

                            ( Strike a Pose. My paternal grandparents,
                                 Vera and Cecil Cooney before they were married)

     help motivate, and inspire me to write poetry and memoir; To tell the story of my ancestors , the ones I knew up close and personal, and loved very much,  and those who died long before I was on this earth. Each photo  reminds me there is a story behind the picture, one  filled with  hope and dreams, love and tears and laughter.



Anonymous said...

What stories behind each picture gives us all something to think about. Thank you for writing this. It was so amazing.


Elizabeth S. Brinton said...

Your family is so interesting, Kathy. They are all photogenic! I can see a Cooney family saga in these pictures.

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

You're right Kathy, photos can lead us in so many directions when telling our stories. These photos say so much. Thanks for the creative thoughts and inspiration.

Patty said...

A writer touches the reader and you did with this Kath.....thanks for sharing!