Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Words and pictures

I don't know if this is true for you, but i grew up being told that words were of far greater value than pictures. Words were serious because they were a passport to a serious (trans: better) adult life. Particularly words in English, those could get you anywhere you wanted to go. Post colonialism at its best

Words are useful of course, you can use them anytime, anywhere, they are totally not dependent on referents. So in a sense you can live through words, a significant section of your reality can be mediated by words. i suspect thats where my affinity for genres like science fiction and fantasy comes from. think of it: an internally consistent universe that is entirely separate from your lived reality. It exists too, vivid and textured and REAL. Ursula Le Guin is right. you cant trust writers:)
Pictures, well pictures are trickier. Pictures are captures rather than weaves (i'm not talking about Vouge or Mens' Health, clearly those exist in the multiple zones between fantasy and reality). So pictures will tell you something about the world as it exists, but not enough, not complete, not whole.
So theyre different. And this is the crux of the problem:
If youve trafficed in words most of your life, how do you move to picture as text
clearly, if it is words that is your primary sign system, youre going to constantly try and translate the pictures to words (much much easier said than done)
See the problem is that the components of pictures are different from the components of words. So i can mostly translate with ease enough from english to bengali and the other way, but i cant look at a picture of a market place in Meerut and 'put it in words' in any satisfactory manner.
Now you can tell me thats not how you do visual analysis, and youre right of course. Its just habit. So i have what may be called pictorial diarrhoea: pictures pass through whole (hehe sorry, its the most vivid image i could access)
My mind refuses to treat them as units, it constantly seeks the sub units that knit together to make sense of the whole. Well and good, true, but the problem is that my mind seeks to understand these sub units as WORDS. which they are not, whichever way you look at it. So i can't do visual analysis because apparently pictures speak a language i'm not used to understanding.
Dammit, if you can translate words to pictures in your head, WHY is it so difficult to translate pictures to words???

Well, I can't/ maybe you can, if you can, please tell me how its done, and i'll stop banging my head against the keyboard.
And thats the current problem.

see you later


Ilovethesmellofnepalinthemorning said...

I agree. I face the same problem all the time, in a different context.
My clients insist on having pictures explained to them in words, and any part of the explanation that cannot be directly observed in the picture is suspect.That's why I like photography. I can just take pictures and shut up.

Anonymous said...

This conversation shall continue ad infinitum whenever an adolescent buys a porn mag. Centerfold vs. the articles in them.

If I ever bought any it was for the articles of course. :)

TT (Syd)