The reason I bought the book a few months ago was that I was, and still am, reflecting on whether to combine my images with words moving forward. I tried this out as I looked at potential formats and layouts for books early in the Final Major Project module. I tried others’ words and found this problematic – did I really want to pass over the opportunity of writing in my own words – especially as I was writing a Journal as I made my images.
However, on the other hand, my own words seemed tame, and often added little for that combination of image and words. As I near the end of my time on the MA, I feel it is something I will come back to. After all, I love the words of Seton Gordon describing the view of Loch Cill Chriosd from above:
“The north wind was chill, and . . . we found little shelter from it. Upon Loch Cille Chriosd . . . the breath of the breeze could be seen to stir the waters, and dark flurries hurried southward in unending succession across the loch.” (Gordon 1929: 12).
I am also aware of the concerns many have about combining words with their imagery. John Berger, for example, was of the view that text always dominates in this combination and pictures without text are poetry. For me, I need to be clear why I feel words will support or enhance my image making, and if that is necessary then maybe my images need strengthening rather than adding words! However carefully chosen the words might be, whether my own or someone else’s, I believe they will inevitably wrestle and conflict with the meaning that I or others might place on the image. Another significant concern for me is that if the poet is not sat next to me by Loch Cill Chriosd to experience that instant when I press the shutter, how could they write meaningfully about the moment in time I have captured. And, even if they did and could, how would it enhance my image?
Steven Fowler speaks about the challenges of combining poetry and photographic images:
“ . . . there is a lacuna between these two arts, which needs to be acknowledged before real hybridity might be achieved. What is most typically found within this chasm are attempts at reconciliation without acknowledgement. We see a kind of tennis match between the image and the word. The photo dominates, often literally leading, flat upon a page, or passed in above the website, and the poem follows, responding, often quite deliberately, mentioning things in the photograph. It is often a depiction and then a description. Each horse in its own stable, lined up before the race, pretending they are both not trying to bolt.” (Fowler 2018).
I digress. The real reason for this post was to share a poem by Nan Shepherd and after two of my images that I thought of as I read her words:
On a still morning
“I hear the silence now.
Alive within its heart
Are the sounds that can not be heard
That the ear may not disport?
As white light gathers all –
The rose and the amethyst,
The ice-green and the copper-green,
The peacock blue and the mist –
So if I bend my ear
To silence, I grow aware
The stir of sounds I have almost heard
That are not quite there.” (Shepherd 1950 in Shepherd 2018: 71).
FOWLER, Steven J. 2018. A Few Words. The Photographers Gallery. Available at:
[Accessed on 3 December 2019].
GORDON, Seton. 1929. The Charm of Skye: the Winged Isle. London, Cassell and Company Ltd.
SHEPHERD, Nan. 2011. The Living Mountain. Edinburgh: Canongate Books.
SHEPHERD, Nan. 2018. A Collection of Nan Shepherd’s Writing: Wild Geese. Cambridge: Galileo Publishers.