True Writing and the Gift of Photography

Some people seem to just let experiences come and go. Little conscious effort is made to keep a part of what just happened to them. Life is just about experiencing things and that’s it. What’s next?

There’s nothing wrong with that. It is a way to travel “light” through the journey of life. These people can be very pleasurable company. They are experiencing new things, as others are pausing to process, document or reflect.

Those of us who attempt to process or document, however, are often good story tellers. We use the experiences of our lives to develop a personal narrative. That narrative is part of our conscientiousness. As long as we are alive, that narrative is always growing.

These experiences can be most anything, such as a great meal, like the one I enjoyed in Spain in 2013.

Lunch at Tatos in Platja d”Aro ©CE Hunt, August 2013
Lunch at Tatos in Platja d”Aro ©CE Hunt, August 2013

The good story tellers (and many writers) try to cling to a memory or two of many experiences–what something smelled like, how a person smiled, the taste of a steak or wine, how a person laughed, or the speckles in a lover’s eyes. The photos above will aid me should I ever write about that magical meal.

Photography can be an enormous gift to writers, especially when writing a scene from the past. (My favorite approach is to write in situ. Think of it as writing en plein air, but that is often not possible.) A well-taken, iconic photo can really open the memory floodgates. Writers can use journals and other tools as well. I find photographs and a few notes in my pocket journal of what I was feeling often works best for me.

By documenting a memory, it gives people something to latch onto and often many others aspects of the memory will flood back. That is a gift for writers, especially writers seeking to deploy what Hemingway termed “true writing” or “knowledge of life” as I discussed my novel, The Sommières Sun.

“Good writing is true writing. If a man is making a story up it will be true in proportion to the amount of knowledge of life that he has and how conscientious he is; so that when he makes something up it is as it would truly be.” ― Ernest Hemingway

I used the memory of my favorite steak place in Paris to create a scene for my protagonist, Steve, and his friend, Beach, to really bond. Food has a magical way of letting people relax and build relationships. I wanted the food to be phenomenal to intensify the bonding experience.

Le Relais de Venise on a rainy night in Paris ©CE Hunt, 2013

I used a couple of photos I of mine plus a discussion with my daughter to prepare to write this scene. I reflected on how I felt the times I ate at Le Relais de Venise, especially the first time in 2010. The following quotes share a bit of what I wrote.

A few minutes later…

I don’t believe I could have captured this scene without having experienced it, but the photos and conversation enriched the prose a great deal and made it even “truer” writing.

It doesn’t have to be just the big moments. Just capturing a simple scene or two can be so pleasurable as well…

Paris in the Sunshine ©CE Hunt, May 25, 2013
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar on a hot evening in the Quarter ©CE Hunt, July 28, 2019

But it can be bigger moments…

Trucadéro ©CE Hunt, January 19, 2013

I probably took 100 pictures that night. I will never forget how cold and beautiful Trucadéro was that night in January.

Whether you are a writer, a story teller or a person who just enjoys reliving and reflecting on special moments, capture those moments you value. It is a balance. Obviously, experience the moments too! It is just that a photo here and there and a few notes in a journal can make a big difference.

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Published by C E Hunt

C E Hunt is a writer and artist based in Louisiana and the Washington, DC area. This page is designed to share updates and commentary on his work and to highlight other works that may be of interest.

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