Seeing stories

by Kristin on June 23, 2011

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Words are my medium, but lately I’ve become sort of obsessed with a photo sharing app called Instagram, and the idea of sharing bits and pieces of the world around me through images.

I’m sort of surprised how captivated I am by the images in my feed—the photos shared by others even more so than the ones I take. Jason is the one who got me hooked. He signed up first, showing me the first 12 or so photos he had taken. I was so intrigued by his take on the world—even a world we mostly share seen by the eyes of someone I know well. His collection of photos says so much about who he is, and what he finds interesting, funny and beautiful.

The ability to snap photos on my phone and share them via Facebook and Twitter isn’t new to me, but until recently I was never so aware of what’s around me and how I might capture and express it. I couldn’t help but wonder what makes using this app different.

Telling a story in a snap

After thinking about it for a while, I decided that Instagram photos don’t just capture an image—somehow they go beyond that, capturing a mood and telling a story. The square format makes you think differently about composition, and the filters (which are very fun to play with) let you push the mood to another level.

The result is a short story, in an instant. It’s not a picture of a porch (above), it’s a story about a woman taking a peaceful break from her work, eating lunch on the porch in June, when the garden lettuce is at its best.

This isn’t a picture of a pool, it’s a story about a public gathering place during the hot, lazy days of summer—cooling off the same way we did when I was a kid, and my mom was a kid…

Here’s a story about a girl orienting herself and who she is in the place where she’s growing up…

And this story is about friendship—embarking on adventures together, rather than alone…

Being more attuned to what I see around me, and seeing scenes and pictures in new ways, as stories, is subtly changing the way I frame the words I write and express the stories I tell. I’m thinking more about mood and color, and the details that make an image rich.

How do images impact your words? How can you challenge and re-focus what (and how) you see?

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  • Dan J

    Love the photos!

    I sometimes write blog posts without images, but not very often. They aren’t always photographs, though.

    The photos that I snap with my phone to upload to Twitter or my blog do help to tell a story, if not provide one on their own. Sharing these little moments is so much more immediate and personal than a postcard that says, “Wish you were here.”

  • Laura

    Beautiful photos. I love Instagram & sadly I keep wishing that they would come out with an Android app as well.

  • bookhouseboy

    Hi, there. This is another lovely, thoughtful post that made me stop and think about life and friends and the world around me in a new and more ruminative way. I don’t have a specific thought here, except that I haven’t left a comment in a long time and I wanted you to know that I’m still lurking and enjoying what you have to say.

  • http://takingtheyoke.blogspot Ray Hollenbach

    We live a a media-rich age. A thousand years ago the written word belonged to the elites; the commers had simple music. Stained gless windows were perphaps the only images some people saw in a lifetime. By the Renaissance painting and scupture was available to the rich, but the visual arts were beginning to develop as a “language” all their own.

    Photography become widespread–available to everyone–in the late nineteenth century, and the changes in our way of seeing and expressing the world changed forever. Moving pictures, radio, TV, and digital are mere extensions of these changes.

    But the widespread access to the visual has impacted the way we speak, write, sing, and think. [My friend Rex Miler has an amazing (and profound) book on this subject: The Millennium Matrix.] We are all artists now, and design has become a necessary tool for every writer, which means I’m in trouble!

  • Jennifer

    I can hear the stories. I will show you my favorite picture next week! I can’t wait for you to see it.

  • Kristin T.

    Dan J, thanks! I certainly won’t claim to be a photographer, but I do love thinking about scenes and the stories they tell. And yes—combining words and images on a blog makes it a much more powerful experience for the reader, I think.

    Laura, I hope they’re working on an Android version—you would have fun with it!

    bookhouseboy, it means a lot that you stopped by to say hi and let me know you’re out there. :) Thanks. I’m glad the conversations and ideas here are enriching your own thoughts and conversations.

    Ray, have you read the book Flickering Pixels? If not, I think you would really enjoy it. It’s so fascinating to think about how media and culture (and innovations) have changed the ways we see and think. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and a book recommendation—sounds super interesting.

    Jennifer, I can’t wait to see it (and can’t wait to capture moments of our writing retreat with Instagram)!

  • Ron Simkins

    Thanks Kristin. I am on vacation as I read your blog on daily living. As a person who fought the idea that story and master story (big picture paradigm) is often more essential to truth, and to knowing, than philosophical logic and axioms, I deeply appreciate your illustrating how this works in our daily living. Story is how we see the world, how we identify ourself and one another, and how we relate to God’s great story – or, choose not to do so. We are both being created by stories and we are co-creators of our stories and even of the stories of others. I still believe that theological and philosophical statements of truth are important, but I now believe that they are shorthand descriptions of the stories/paradigms of reality that lie behind them. Thanks again for a daily reminder of how this is at work in our lives all the time..

  • ThatGuyKC

    I’m a big fan of Instagram and definitely believe a picture is worth 1000 words. I’ve thought about doing a project where people could submit photos and someone else writes a 1000 word essay, story or poem to go with it.

    I think the combination of words and pictures tells the most vibrant stories.

    Great post!