A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words, or is it?

August 14, 2009

 “A picture’s worth a thousand words” or so the saying goes. If so, I must have millions of words in pictures. I’m the family scrap-booker. I don’t mean in the crafty sense with embellished pages and such. Mine are fairly unadorned. Just pictures with a few labels. Family ‘archivist’ might be a more accurate description. I have a bookshelf overflowing with albums, cataloguing every vacation and family event.

However, as time goes by, my memory gets a little less reliable. I find that pictures alone are not enough. Oh, I remember going to this place or that, and an anecdote or two. But the details are forgotten.

I was reminded of this on a recent trip to my childhood home. My dad had been cleaning out the closets when he discovered old letters and other wonderful treasures. Among them was a letter I’d written to my grandmother while I was on a college term abroad. In it, I described places I’d been, things I’d done, and most importantly my impressions of the trip — feelings no picture could recreate or capture. The missive was a small time capsule of that moment in my life. And it brought home the importance of narrative as a record of experience. A record that a photograph alone, however beautiful, could not convey.