Writing Your Senses

word cloud student comments

Agenda for 1.23.13

Thoreau & Dillard Discussion Synthesis (15 minutes)

Text sweep:  Looking for evidence of the 5 senses in Thoreau & Dillard (15 minutes)

Field Notes: Capturing the Five Senses (15 minutes)

FIeldnotes RIver Park North

Sharkbait’s Fieldnotes RPN

Walking & Writing What Your Senses Tell You:  Walk until you find a quiet place that engages your senses.  Stop and take a minimum of 30 minutes of field notes.  Capture several images of this place that correlate with your field notes.   (75 minutes)

Debrief: Share and Respond.


Using your field notes, create a 300-500 word personal experience narrative of walking at River Park North.  Like Thoreau and Dillard’s narratives, yours should have vivid detail and should have significance– a sense of purpose for the reader.  Post the narrative and selected images from the trip to your walk by Sunday at noon.

Before class on Wednesday, read and comment (100-200 words) on at least one classmate’s personal experience narrative.  You’ll want to address what intrigued, surprised, or interested you in their story as well as what bothered, confused, or left you, as a reader, unsatisfied.  What questions do you have or what would you like the writer to elaborate on? Did the writer use vivid detail to tell an interesting story with a thought-provoking message or point?  If so, what message did you take away? If not, how might the writer refocus on a theme?

Read “Letters” by Ansel Adams and “Understanding Visual Rhetoric by Anne Wysocki available on the Course Readings page.  Leave a 150-200 word comment on this post that connects to the readings and addresses the following:

Why are images important to us? What sorts of arguments do they make? How do they make these arguments?  What questions are you thinking about regarding images and visual rhetoric?

Next class will meet in Brewster 209 D.  Bring your laptops/tablets and power cords).

16 responses to “Writing Your Senses

  1. Images are an integral part of our everyday life because they help us form our perceptions of the world. Images also help us conceive or share new ideas, or even reminisce on old ones. Just as Ansel suggests in his letter, images capture shards of life and allow us to portray feelings or dreams to other people. Images can inform, caution, advise, please, anger, or even sadden us as individuals. They can do these things by appealing to our very human emotions. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,” sums up the understanding that pictures can be much more important and valuable to the human mind. In regards to images and visual rhetoric, I am most interested in discovering how to match images with my writing more appropriately to convey a more accurate sense of my notions.

  2. On the surface, photography seems to be a rather limited method of delivering a message, or at least, of properly displaying the reality of what the photographer was catching. That, at least, is what the reading on analyzing photography was saying to me, as it was fixated on the inability of a photograph to display the four dimensionality of a space. But the limitations of photography are what make it such a good art form- because the human mind must fill in the space with its own imagination. I believe that images are especially useful when expressing a message because humans are largely visual creatures. Our sight is our strongest sense, and we can find details in a photograph much easier than in a smell or sound. It is up to the viewer of the photograph to interpret the images presented to them. For example, a photograph of a springtime forest does not depict the warmth of the sun or the sounds of birds in the trees. Yet we can look at such a photograph and envision these things clearly. To Ansel Adams, photographs are “myriad mirrors reflecting and illuminating” internal emotions. A visual image can bond to the viewer’s soul or mean nothing to them at all, depending on how they interpret the image.

  3. As shown in both the readings, images are important because they give the readers something to relate to and give a better understanding of the reading. The author puts an image in the readers head so the reader can have a better understanding of the passage and relate to it just as the author did. For example in the Letter by Adams, Adams used the imagery of a moving thundercloud to describe the feeling he had of thoughts drifting around inside of him. He made a comparison between a drifting cloud and drifting thoughts so we can get a better understanding of his thoughts. “Understanding Visual Rhetoric” discusses analyzing pictures, and includes different viewpoints on various pictures. An example of an argument from this passage is two different viewpoints on the same picture. An image of a family is shown and it is analyzed in different ways, and the argument is made using different rhetoric strategies. Questions that come to mind are how the different rhetoric strategies measure up to each other, is there a right and wrong way to analyze imagery? Does imagery always give us a better understanding of the reading or does it leave us with more questions than we started with to keep us interested?

  4. Images are important to us because they add feeling. They’re like mental snapshots that allow our memories to never quite be forgotten. “A picture is worth a thousand words” really comes to meaning when you study images. Ansel Adams speaks of art as a form of beauty, which shows the spirit. The spirit is something you can’t describe in words. It’s like an inner feeling of enlightenment. It didn’t comprehend this “feeling” until I read the Visual Rhetoric article, which discussed all of the complex ideas that go behind pictures. Pictures make arguments through focusing attention, cropping, physical arrangement, background, color, context, and many more. Cropping the image of the family to focus on their hands really showed me the different arguments pictures could make. The emphasis on their hands made the image more powerful. You could see the relationship and interdependence of the family and in return felt respect for them. The photographer may have a specific argument in mind and may try to capture that by directing the viewer’s attention to a specific spot, arranging the pictures in a certain order, or by placing contrasting images next to each other. But the argument is really up to the viewer’s own imagination and interpretation, which is typically based on prior knowledge and experience. I wonder if photographers think about focus when taking the picture or if they interpret it/tweak the picture after it’s captured. Does every picture we take have a purpose or tell a story? What qualifies an image as “extraordinary?”

  5. Images are so important to us because they help recreate the moment in which they were taken. They help bring back the memory and emotion that was there when the image was captured. When you did not experience the real thing, then looking at a photograph can be the closest thing you can get, but it depends on the photographers use of color, cropping, and direction. When you are trying to make a specific argument you may capture a moment completely differently than if you were trying to say something else with that moment. When the photograph of the family was split apart into tiny little slivers of what the original photograph was, you look at each one completely different. The limitations on photography is how far can the photographer go to make you feel the same emotion and emphasis on specific parts of the situation that he or she did. How can a photographer make you feel the exact emotion they did? Ansel Adams believed photography was art and that art could create revelations inside yourself and he wished to share that experience with as many as he could. But is a photograph a better example of an experience/moment in time than words could be?

  6. Images are so important to us because they capture a moment in time. They allow us to relive that moment and memories that wash over us. Photos let us document a period of time that shouldn’t soon be forgotten. Photos can be used to argue for better living conditions, or validate a person’s argument of them being somewhere. I interpreted the bottom picture of the Native American mother with her child in the visual rhetoric book as a hardship. From this frame, you can see the wrinkles around her eyes and the tired look in her eyes, both signs of a tough life. There is no better way to understand how hard someone’s life was than through the lens that captured the hardships in the first place. The photo of Ansel Adam reiterates how tough his life was. Through the amount of wrinkles formed from the long, sleepless hours of working, and the stress. But also in that picture, you see a glisten in his eye. This glisten runs parallel to the letter he wrote about his chance to see the true beauty of the wild. Photos can argue for an end to a vicious, blood bath of a war, or compliment the unsung beauty of wilderness. When the photographer captures the specific moment in time, have they already started to plan their story that will envelope this photo? Is there ever a photograph just captured for its pure beauty or is there always visual rhetoric that goes along with each photo?

  7. Before there were pictures, situations had to be described. You may have really liked your friends jacket with the beading embellishments and subtle hints of color, however, trying to explain it to your boyfriend is pointless because he is barely listening and doesn’t understand it. So, rather than go through that trouble, we just show him a picture and avoid hassle from both perspectives. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Pictures can invoke emotion, they give a context of time and place and relationships. Pictures make the arguments of the photographer because that person controls the boundaries and points of interest through cropping, framing, and the attention of the subject of the photo. A picture is a still shot, and while it gives insight into the picture, it cannot ever tell you the actual feelings of the people or situations. I guess you could say that it argues the point of the photographer. To Ansel Adams, art and photography is everything: give and take, love and friendship, tragic and wonderful. I’m not a very artsy person. I don’t take away underlying meanings of written works, pictures, sculptures, or paintings very easily. I understand the tips in tricks given by Wysocki, because these are fundamental things that don’t involve interpretation. They just are. Why does every picture have to be analyzed? Why can’t it just be a picture of a family, a beautiful scene, an ironic pose, etc.?

  8. People often say, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Although a thousand may be a stretch, images do capture a moment in a way that even the most descriptive writer cannot. What words leave to the imagination, images present in plain sight and vivid detail. This is not to say that a snapshot on a camera paints a complete picture, no pun intended, of what was going on at a particular time, but when complimented by words they do come very close. Images are also useful for proving points and recording memories. Looking at pictures can sometimes take me back in time to when the picture was taken. As mentioned, it is impossible for an image to actually “capture” reality, though, and in an effort to come closer images are often manipulated by the photographer, whether it be by setting up certain camera angles, creating vectors in the subjects, or by cropping the picture after it has been taken. A photographer who can successfully use these manipulations to create feeling in the viewers is a true artist, because as Wysocki it is not easy to make a two-dimensional image portray one that occurred in four dimensions. The main question reading these two passages left me with was this: how can you trust a picture, when nowadays it is so easy to manipulate them? Also, have the advances in photography with digital cameras boasting insane shutter speeds made photographers lazy?

  9. Images are important to us because they allow us to see more than flesh and blood or pure landscape. As Adams states in his letter to Cedric, “Children are not only of flesh and blood — children may be ideas, thoughts, emotions.” Images allow us to see the ideas, thoughts, and emotions that children (as well as others) have. It allows us to see past what the naked eye sees, past stereotypes, and past previous judgments we have had of a certain person, a certain type of person, or a certain place. It helps us to communicate and relate to other people because we can relate to their thoughts and emotions, the things they have been through.

    Photography is a way to allow people to see the reality, or the problems, of a situation in a way that will compel them to help change that situation. Wysocki calls this type of photography “Documentary Photography,” and it has been used to document or record images of war, poor social conditions, and other controversial of problematic events. It is persuasive because one can see with their own eyes the problems that others are facing. For instance, if someone were to tell others that they shouldn’t start bonfires or throw cigarettes in a wooded area when the conditions are dry, they may or may not care about what that person had to say. However, if that person showed others a photograph of a forest that has burnt down and what remains of it, the message would be much more powerful.

    I wonder how persuasive and powerful photography can be as a tool for social change. Are there any instances in history where a photograph has caused some sort of change?

    – Erika Dietrick

  10. Images are important to us because they not only show scenes and images that we may not have seen before, but they also show how we think and feel internally. When looking at a landscape photo one can plainly see a mountain range, but what emotions this mountain range emulates ranges from person to person. One photo can mean a variety of different things to separate people. Due to cropping and other photo techniques, people can actually argue about what the photo is actually trying to capture, and what the photo has failed to capture. The problem with modern digital photography is that one cannot know how trustworthy the source of the photo is due to Photoshop and misleading cropping. Since we have the same technology as artists, how can we replicate the same feelings experienced from their art?

    • Sorry I accidentally posted before finishing.

      Images are important to us because they not only show scenes and images that we may not have seen before, but they also show how we think and feel internally. When looking at a landscape photo one can plainly see a mountain range, but what emotions this mountain range emulates ranges from person to person. One photo can mean a variety of different things to separate people. Due to cropping and other photo techniques, people can actually argue about what the photo is actually trying to capture, and what the photo has failed to capture. The problem with modern digital photography is that one cannot know how trustworthy the source of the photo is due to Photoshop and misleading cropping. The other problem is that the ability to create these images is available to everyone, so the art loses some of its credibility and meaning due. This abundance however, also allows more art to experience. Since we have the same technology as artists, how can we replicate the same feelings experienced from their art?

  11. The importance of images is sadly overlooked by many people. When passing a beautiful picture or painting, we sometimes gasp in awe, but more than likely we walk by it- abandoning someones heartfelt work and moving on to our next daily task. Images are of great importance to us simply because they are the easiest way to portray a great scene or surrounding. The majority of people are visual learners and are therefore more intrigued by looking at something rather than hearing or smelling something of equal value. As Anne Wysocki says in ‘Analyzing Documentary Photography’, “Before photography, artists could only “capture” images”. Capturing images (I’m assuming painting/sketching) takes a ridiculous amount of time and produces perishable work. Photography of today is literally immortal; once a picture is placed on Facebook, sent through an email or even posted to a random website, it leaves a trace in the digital world that we will always be available to locate. Photography therefore opens up the world of endless pictures to stimulate interest in a vast array of topics. With this interest comes many points to be made, or arguments if you rather. Images can make people aware of a range of incredible to devastating topics. Before google images was (literally) a part of my life, I had not seen many animals, bugs, beautiful countries or people. Although this may seem like a wonderful tool for perspective shifting, it is definitely a double edged sword; many of the atrocities man has committed upon fellow man and nature have been made accessible due to this openness of the world that photography brings. This, although saddening and grim, opens the doors for the possibility of change in harmful conditions. For example, Wysocki states, “In the early twentieth century, photographers started recording social conditions, hoping that others, seeing the lives of the poor, would work toward improvement”. This shows that before photography, many of the causes that we as a people are now beneficiaries of would not exist. On another note, photography is also a beautiful way to show the beauty of the world. Ansel Adams states, “[Art] is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light of the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit”.

    If it weren’t for images, how much would we know about the world? How many of us depend on images on a daily basis to give a concrete understanding of what exactly is going on?

    -Zach Evans

  12. Images allow us to infer about time and weather periods, subjects’ personalities, and lifestyles of different subjects. Anne Wysocki argues that photographs don’t capture reality, because reality is only in 4D, whereas images are considered 2D. She supports this by pointing out the fact that when we look at pictures, we make a lot of assumptions. We assume we know what time period, what weather situation, what personalities and lifestyles subjects have. We base our assumptions on clothing, type and number of layers, and color of the image. Obviously old-fashioned, fur-lined clothes combined with a black and white picture would represent a rich lifestyle lived in the earlier 1900s, at the latest, and multiple layers and coats makes you think it is cold outside…therefore winter. I agree with Wysocki in some cases, like if there’s a picture of people pointing at an unseen subject, I cannot assume what that subject is; however, in pictures like the one I described above, it is pretty easy to assume reality.
    Ansel Adams argues that visual rhetoric is important because it portrays our emotions, spiritual and physical feelings, and interprets our thoughts and ideas. I agree that some landscape photos or images of dramatic events like the Holocaust or 9/11 can definitely trigger emotions, thoughts and ideas and make your overall mood alter to match the mood of the photo. For example, if I see a beautiful image of a sunset or mountain range covered in snow, it’s going to make me feel serene. Likewise, if I see really gross pictures of drunk college students puking all over the place, I’m going to feel really grossed out and disgusted.

    –Mallory Byrum

  13. Images are important to us for a variety of reasons. They can tell a story, freeze a moment in time, or allow us to see things we may never see in real life. They can help us remember family reunions, and can allow us to see the world without leaving our homes. However, that is not all an image can do. As Ansel Adams pointed out, a photograph can also give us a new perspective on something, maybe even on life itself. By using even the most common of techniques listed in Understanding Visual Rhetoric a photographer can give a new twist on a common object or occurrence.
    Merely by existing, an image argues that it is important. For an image to exist, be it a photograph or painting, it signifies that someone somewhere thought it was important. However that leaves a few major questions to be answered. Just because a photographer thinks their image is important, is it? Is there an objective standard by which photography can be judged, or must every viewer decided for themselves?

  14. Images give us a sense of being there. They allow us to see dimensions, visualize smells and sounds, and imagine what the object might feel like. Without photography, we may miss the picture entirely. We can read the best written imagery piece and still not be able to conceptualize all the pieces that the author is discussing. On the other hand, we may have a preconceived notion about what a common object looks like and not appreciate what the author is trying to say.

    In the reading about Ansel Adams letters to Cedric Wright, it emphasizes that art is a full relationship with the world that includes both taking and giving and that art has a full encompassing purpose to life itself. I love how Adams makes art a reciprocal relationship that is more than a relationship between a child and its parents. Art speaks when your ideas fail you and words are sub-par. This reading is truly remarkable with the intense sense of purpose that it gives to art and photos.

  15. I have never been a good photographer, but i have always enjoyed looking back through photos and reminiscing on how things were back then. I feel that the pictures, I take, alone do not do the whole scene justice because it is simply a 2D portrait of it. As a writer i have to take my descriptions further to give the reader a true notion of where i was. Adam’s was a very good photographer and captured all he could to let the viewer really feel the scene. he said that images are meant to “mirror” the scene. This means he also knew that you could take the details further but you needed to capture all you could. In a classmates post last week he talked of a stone wall being overtaken by the wild slowly. His description was very detailed and informative. But he lacked a picture of the wall. This didn’t hurt his description but it could have been a lot better with one.

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