Pictures v Words

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Earlier this week, I indirectly talked about the power of visuals.

When writing, it can be easy to be jealous of TV/movies, magazine articles or even picture books. They’ve got it easy. They have the luxury of really showing.  They don’t have to write without telling.

But sometimes it’s the words that really pack a punch.

While we were in Japan for my friend’s wedding, my husband and I went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. I got the audio tour.

The first floor was mostly historical documents, propaganda posters, tactical explanations – the administration of war. My audio tour consisted of actors reading out loud what I could read on the exhibit plaques. I thought I’d wasted my money on the tour.

The second floor was filled with personal artifacts. Some were obviously horrifying: the stone steps with a shadow burned into it, the picture of a woman’s back with her kimono print burned into it. But there were many, many more that seems mundane: a child’s shoe, a lunch box, a comb…but each one of those visuals came with an audio story that was incredibly hard to listen to. A mother, a father, a sister, a son recounting their last minutes before the blast, their desperate searching for the artifact’s owner, their realization that the artifact was all that was left…

I took my tour headphones off half way through the second floor. I couldn’t hear any more of the words. They were too much. The pictures they were painting, the emotions they were laying bare were so much more powerful than the item itself, the obvious visual, could do.

The stories still haunt me, but I wouldn’t remember the shoe without the story — the words — behind it.

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