words before photos…

You’ve heard this complaint before, but my photos sometimes get in my way. I am a writer first, and a photographer… somewhere about fifth. Ok, maybe it’s third or fourth, by now. My photos have come a long way since I was a teenager. And then, they’ve probably come just as far, in the last two years alone.

But like I said, I’m a writer first. If I’ve never written a book, how was I a writer, before I started this blog? Well, I’m not even talking about the stories I’ve started, over the years, and never finished. I’m talking about the art of letter-writing. Have you heard of it?

The internet only arrived at our house when I was about fifteen (1995), and my older brother started college. We somehow wired his school e-mail to come to our house, and then I was able to write short e-mails to my one cousin who also had e-mail. It was the DOS screen type, black screen and white letters, and you could only write a letter as long as the screen, no scrolling down. If you had more to write, you had to start a new letter, and heaven forbid anyone pick up the telephone. If they picked up the phone, you lost your e-mail, unable to copy and paste it again. Had to start over, completely. Oh, the wails that ensued, when someone touched that phone.

I’m talking about even further back, though, when I actually wrote letters to my friends. You see, even though I had friends in school, my closest friends were always my cousins, who lived in faraway states like Michigan and Massachusetts. Long-distance telephone calls were expensive and nearly unheard of for kids my age, so letters were the only option. And didn’t we keep the mailman busy!

In high school, I learned how to type, and for only getting half a semester in the subject, I learned quickly. The class ended before I could get very good with numbers, but aside from that, I’ve always been able to type almost 100 wpm. In fact, that’s almost as fast as I can think.

When you’re maintaining close friendships through letters and long e-mails, you don’t have someone there with you, telling you when to stop. You go through their letters, make sure you address every topic, in detail, because who knows when they will have time to reply, and you want them to respond in kind. I lived for my letters, over the years.

What does this have to do with being a writer? Well, here on my blog, my aim is usually to tell a story, whether I use pictures or words. What are you doing, when you write letters to close friends, if not telling them the daily story of your life? You’re trying to make them see, hear, and almost touch what you are living through. And when it’s between close friends, you are being honest, and not even avoiding the harsh details of your life.

Eventually, my letter-writing translated into e-mail and Facebook form. When I went to Indonesia in 1999 (or somewhere around there), I wrote e-mails to my mom (and forwarded to several other people), every day, so she would know what my time there was like. Those letters were also forwarded to my own e-mail, so I still have the descriptions from that month, full of as much detail as I could squeeze in. I also took a large number of photos, and they’re in a box somewhere, waiting to be transferred to CD. Someday.

When I went to Ireland, for a two-week mission trip, in 1999, I didn’t have computer access. So, I used the method that I continue to use when I can’t write regular e-mails, I keep an old-fashioned journal. Nowadays, I write them in shorthand, but then, I wrote them in detail. Every night, I documented our day, so that I would be able to type it up and immortalize it, afterwards. And since I was afraid my camera might get stolen, I took a handful of disposable cameras with me, to capture what Ireland and London (we were there for a day) looked like. Those pictures are in a box somewhere, too.

Some of these journals were typed up, afterwards, and sent to people in letter form. Others were posted in Notes, on Facebook. This was long before my blog ever existed, but I still wanted my friends and family to know what these places were really like, and what adventures I had.

The most recent version of the journal-to-blog posts would be from my cruise to the Bahamas, and my week in Sydney. After writing a shorthand version of my days on the cruise ship, I condensed it into a short blog post, some time after I began my blog. Probably when I was feeling jealous of my Aussie friend’s cruise in the Pacific, to Vanuatu, and islands like that. My week in Sydney, of course, was journaled straight onto my computer, with my photos all pre-edited, just waiting for me to get back to Emerald, and an internet connection. It was basically blogging without access to a blog.

Every time I have written up a trip or an experience, you’ll find mentions of me using my camera, but that was never the most important thing. You can look at an album of photos and have no idea what you’re looking at, or what funny little incidences happened with each. I have always wanted to have people see the adventure from my WORDS, and then fill in the blanks with the pictures, afterwards.

Which brings me back to my original complaint, which I probably shouldn’t be complaining about. I still love to take photos, but occasionally, I take so many of them, that I feel required to catch up on posts full of photos, when I really want to do something that’s much more writing-oriented. It ends up feeling like the photos forced my hand, whereas I want the writing to force the photos. Or something like that.

But I’m trying to catch up. A friend wished me a happy weekend, and hoped that I would get out and take some photos. I said, “Noooo, I have too many of them, I need to catch up.”, which probably sounded slightly odd to her. But it makes sense to me. And with my latest post about Tillman Hall, I feel that I’m finally catching up with some of my previous pictures, with my post on Sirrine Hall to follow, soon after.

When that’s done, I can go back to letting the words take me where they will… and the photos will follow, as a side dish. A more pleasing side dish than they ever were, when I was a teenager, but still, not the main course for this blog.

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