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Is the pen mightier than the lens?

Olympus Pen Camera, Jean Pierre fountain pen, Apple keyboard
Olympus Pen Camera, Jean Pierre fountain pen, Apple keyboard
Seon Nanton

The relationship between poetry and photography has been for the most part an either or position and thus the subject of discussions on Facebook and Flikr. However most of these discussions do not talk about the context of the poetry or photo in question. Fortunately there are few topics unexplored by both mediums. For this reason reason a why not both position should be taken with respect to these powerful art forms.

Both photography and poetry distort the reader and viewer's reference to reality, doing so even if the viewer/reader does not notice the distortion in front of them. A photograph first offers a still image of a moment, then flattens that moment to two dimensions. Additionally with the endless options of color manipulation, the photography can do away with color all together and take a picture black and white. If the composition of the photo is good you'll end with a poetic photograph, a phonograph that sparks feeling and even suggests something not in the picture.

The same can be done in the other direction, a photographic poem that creates images for the reader. Since a poem is compelled to suggest something other that just the words offered (other wise its prose). Lines, verses and syllables act like: contrast, shadow and highlight detail for photos.

Maybe photographers should write a poem or two and poets can pick up a camera and try some artistic snapshots. Photography cannot replace poetry, nor is a photo always worth the words of a poem. Arguably the work of Ralph Gibson and Hiroshi Sugimoto a among the best examples of poetic photographs. Additionally authors like Richard Wright and Maya Angelou offer some visually groundbreaking poems that are photographic poems. For these reasons the next generation of master poets will also be photographers.