A Picture Really is Worth a Thousand Words

Thomas - Winchester, Virginia
Entered on September 4, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

A Picture Really is Worth a Thousand Words

The saying “A Picture Really is Worth a Thousand Words” is as old as the art of taking photographs itself. Our first thought is to think of the most awful, badly taken picture we can think of, and think, “no way!” but even that photo tells a story. Every picture tells a story. Not always a very good one and not always immediately relating to what shows up on the final print of the photo, but there is always a story to be told.

Let us think in the abstract of what a photograph really is. A photograph is an instantaneous record of the world as placed in front of the lens of a camera. A photograph is ageless; it does not change with time, or current trends. A photograph instantly brings us back to a time, a place, and a state of being. A photograph evokes emotion. It makes us proud to be Americans when we see the stars and stripes suspended outward on the surface of the moon, with our planet in the background. Photographs can make us sick, such as the man in Tiananmen Square, who holds fast as the tank rolls on without taking notice of the human suffering it stands for. A photograph can make us cry tears of joy, as an elderly man hold his newly born grandchild. And of course, a photograph can make us laugh, as you and your friends bunch in together, big smiles all around, someone undoubtedly sticking out their tongue, at some point during that night you don’t really remember all that well for some reason.

So what does this all add up to? Far more than a thousand words first of all. It adds up to a lifetime of stories and memories.

Photography has always had a special place in my life. I love art; in all forms and the only thing I like to do more than admire art, is attempt it. I am here at Shenandoah University as a musician, but I love many different mediums of art. There is one problem however; I am a terrible artist in the traditional sense of the word. I am barely past drawing stick figures! Cameras are my answer to this dilemma. Photography is a technical exercise as well as an artistic one. It is tricking a piece of precision machinery to do something artful and creative. All of this history of myself and why I take photographs goes into every photograph I take. What is your story and why did you end up with a camera the instant you took any photo?

So what have I proven here? There are far too many stories to tell and the photograph is just the silent reminder of those stories. So take your own photographs, and tell your own stories, and remember to say “cheese” about it along the way.