Can getting behind the lens help improve your writing? Armed only with a camera and a few wise words to see him on his way, Wyl took to the field to find out.
Inspired by a recent talk I attended by the author SF Said, who takes a polaroid photograph every day as part of his writing practice, I decided to explore what taking a camera out with me could do for my writing practice. If nothing else, it would make a change from sitting in front of my laptop trying to get the word count up.
Said says of his practice, “Photography has helped me see so many strange and interesting things; things I would never have noticed otherwise.” So, with this in mind and equipped with a borrowed camera and a waterproof, I set off through a sodden Cornwall to the tiny fishing village of Cadgwith Cove, to research a piece I’m working on, which is set around a small fishing community.
Said’s daily practice is based around taking narrative photographs, and he says it is an antidote to spending all the rest of his day around words. My intention was a little different – my plan was to take photographs that would inspire narrative. What actually happened when I arrived and got down to the beach was I realised I wanted to research the small details, the ones that make a big difference to the reader, drawing them into the fictional world and helping them suspend their disbelief in an increasingly fantastical world. I spent the new few hours exploring the beach, the sheds and the boats themselves.
What the camera helped me to do was focus, to get up close to the textures and colours of a working fishing village, and it was this close observation I found most useful; taking a close view of the stacks of fishing nets and fraying creels, the rusted winch machinery, the cracks in the paint on the boats pulled up on the beach.
It’s a discipline I think I’ll continue, as I found, when I got back to my studio, there was a flow of words just waiting to be written, and they weren’t the ones I was expecting to write – a whole new scene had emerged as though it had been percolating away in the back of my mind while I was snapping away.
My photos might not win any awards, but the words they inspired were of worth several hours of sitting staring at the blank page.
You can find a larger selection of the images from my Cadgwith trip on Flickr.