It is my honor to welcome Victoria Musgrave to my little corner of the web today. I encourage you to follow her blog of sharp insights and lovely photos. – Elizabeth
Last night, I listened to an interview with Joni Mitchell, the legendary Canadian singer, songwriter, musician and painter. The interviewer, Jian Ghomeshi, asked her to reflect on her songwriting and painting.
While she is probably best known for her singing and songwriting, she thinks of herself first as a visual artist. She started performing in coffee houses as a way to support herself while a student at art school. Her singing and songwriting eventually took her to California and fame, but she never stopped painting or seeing the world as a painter would. Indeed, many of her songs are very descriptive and by listening to them you can paint pictures in your mind.
Joni sees songwriting and art as different languages and some ideas can’t be translated from one language to another. She applies painting principles to her music. Painting is her “mother tongue” and music is a learned language.
Now, I would never consider myself to be anywhere near as brilliant as Joni Mitchell, but the interview did make me think about how my own writing and photography relates or intersects with each other. I consider myself first and foremost a writer. I’ve been writing since I was 12 years old and have known since that age that writing was always going to be an important part of my life. I’ve made a living as a journalist, writer and corporate communicator for over a decade now.
However, throughout my career I’ve been called on to take photos for articles, brochures, conference posters and websites. I’ve worked mainly in non-profit organizations that couldn’t afford to hire a professional photographer.
Slowly, I began enjoying capturing moments and events with the camera. I took an interest in composing my shots, working with natural light and trying to capture the essence of an event or person with a single image. I have a camera with me at all times (mostly my iPhone, but I do carry a DSLR camera with me often). I take pictures every day, mostly capturing slices of my life.
How does photography relate to writing?
Taking photos has helped me to become a more descriptive writer. The camera forces me to pay attention to details. A few weeks ago, I sent myself on a photo walk through one of the oldest cemeteries in Toronto – many of the graves are more than one hundred years old. With my eye to the camera’s viewfinder, I paid far closer attention to gravestones and statuary that had become softened and worn with age. I noticed the tiny blue flowers that were sprinkled across the ground, bright bursts of life amidst the tombs. I marveled at the vines that were entwined around a tomb, wondering if there was anyone left to cut them away. I’m not certain if I would have paid as much attention if I didn’t have my camera with me.
I take photos to capture specific moments or details that will strengthen a story or blog post. It has been said a zillion times, but a photo really is worth a thousand words. The web is becoming increasingly visual and I love how easy it has become to include a picture with a blog post, a Facebook status update or to simply share images through Instagram or Twitter.
Photography is also a way to connect with yourself and others. I take photos to remind myself of moments, both ordinary and extraordinary. The morning cup of coffee, the lilac tree in bloom or a special place while traveling. I take self portraits occasionally, not for vanity, but as a way to remind myself that this is who I am right now.
Through social media, and especially Instagram, I can share glimpses of my life and catch glimpses of other people’s lives. I don’t consider this voyeurism, but connection. By sharing our lives, we don’t feel so isolated. We can see how similar we all really are.
For years, I’ve kept a diary or a journal and I enjoy being able to read entries I wrote years ago when I was at a different stage of my life. I can catch glimpses of who I was at the time. Photography also gives me a detailed visual record, a visual journal of my life. My parents took pictures when I was a kid and I treasure those yellowing snap shots. I love the fact that digital photography has made it so easy to capture daily moments. I will have thousands of photos to look back on years from now.
I think perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from pursuing photography in addition to writing is that I don’t have to put myself into a creative box. I’m not just a writer. It is good and healthy to pursue other forms of creativity because each will feed and strengthen the other.
Victoria Musgrave (www.victoriamusgrave.com) is a writer and photographer passionate about telling stories through words and images and is currently writing a memoir about living aboard a sailboat and traveling to the Caribbean as a teenager. She spends her days doing yoga, journaling, working on the book, designing websites, snapping pictures with her iPhone and will soon launch an ebook on creating a daily journaling habit.