Layers


Recently, I started following the LENS blog on the New York Times web site (found here). Today, there was a Q&A with photographer Jared Soares. Soares mentions getting his inspiration from photographer Sam Abel, especially his Red Bucket photograph. I had no idea it was possible for a photo to have that much information and also to be so beautiful, Soares said in talking about Abel’s layered photograph. “… [T]here’s something in the foreground, there’s something in the middle and then there’s something in the back. .

From the Lens blog, I followed the links to learn more about Abel’s photograph and landed on this article, “Life lit up is the essence of photography”.

I like this idea of layering in photographs, of adding in layer upon layer of information to tell the larger picture. Reading this, during a “break” (easily recognized as an euphemism for procrastination) in writing a short story, I realized how much this is like the writing process. You may have a good short story, but it cannot stand on plot alone. You add in layers, a bit of description here that sets the time and the place, a bit of information there regarding a character that helps you understand that person and his actions to come. Slowly, through small details, layer upon layer is built. In the end, it’s all there for the reader — call it setting, plot, narrative viewpoint, characterization or whatever you want — it’s there for the reader to unpack. Except, usually, we don’t unpack it bit by bit in terms of looking at the individual steel girders that provide the structure for the story. Like the Red Bucket photograph, or Soares’ photo of the Rapper Oxygen, we take it all in as a whole at first. Only upon closer inspection do we see the layers. They work on us whether we separate the layers or not.

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