An Image Tells A Thousand Words, But Adding Words Can Really Bump Up That Word Count

They say an image tells a thousand words, but you only need to take a look at Humans Of New York to see that words can elevate an image beyond something we look at from the outside, to something we can become a part of. Often the juxtaposition of what is going on in the photo and what the person says about themselves can be enlightening and devastating.

I took this photo of an old man a few years ago, it has a Humans of New York quality to it but I never stopped to ask for a quote. I really love this photo as an image alone, but hearing what people have to say about themselves can be just as interesting as how they dress, present themselves and how they act in the process of being photographed.

My dear friend Soheila Sokhanvari has an incredible sculpture at the current Saatchi Gallery exhibition Champagne Life. Her work has a powerful impact on its own but as she is my friend, I get to hear the back stories that lead to the work’s creation. I’m sure if you asked her nicely she’d fill you in as well. For me, her additional information elevates the work to a new level, she doesn’t aim to explain the work, it simply provides further context. This horse in particular has a long and fascinating story – in life and after death – which makes me love the work even more than I would if I saw it randomly and thought ‘wow that is cool!’.  I took the below photo when Moje Sabz was in our Goldsmiths MA end of course show in 2011.

Some people will disagree with me and suggest that truly wonderful imagery shouldn’t need words to tell a story and I agree. When it comes to films I predominantly think no voiceover and less dialogue is better, but films are more actively immersive, and sound adds a whole new layer. It’s not just one moment that is being captured but long stretches of time.

When done well, stories, anecdotes and context can successfully increase that one thousand word count.

For more information on Soheila’s art work visit her gallery Kristin Hjellegjerde in London or online,

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