Shaping Information

Writing Exercise: Connections

Find a picture with more than 2 people in it -- this can be a snapshot, a picture from a book or magazine, anything -- and write about the people in it. Write about their physical attributes, what they look like, (who they look like -- "this man had the stature of a politician, but his clothes told me he was a janitor...") as well as your speculations on what their behavioral attributes could be -- are they cranky, stubborn, scared, naive; what would they do in certain situations?

Now write about what their relationships to each other are -- if one is in the foreground and another is in the background, why are they separated like that? If one has his/her face half-turned, why is that? Do they know of each others' existence? What would happen if they did (or didn't)? Is there one person who dominates the picture? Are they aware that their picture is being taken?

Next, consider the relationship of the photographer -- what does he/she have to do with the people in the photo? What does he/she know about the placement of these people? Has the photographer manipulated these people in any way?

Finally, consider that you are involved with all of these relationships by holding the photo and looking at it. How has the people in the photo manipulated or affected you? How has the photographer manipulated/affected you? Have you in any way affected the people in the photo? How? Involve yourself in this process of relating.

One last thing: consider this process transposed onto writing, with you as the author taking the place of the photographer, and somehow affecting people at both ends, as participants and as viewers. What does this position do to your sense of power? How does it affect your sense of "doing it right"? What fears does this position raise? Will people at either end realize these fears?