The Power of Image in Photography and Poetry

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Photo Credit: Danielle McCormack

By Danielle McCormack

Photography has been a continuous influence in my life. At a young age I would follow my mother around as she would take photographs of family occasions and weddings. Nowadays, everyone with an Instagram account and a smartphone considers themselves a photographer, but when I was twelve and first exploring the art of photography with my instant print Polaroid, I began looking at the world with a photographer’s eye. My mission was to go out to capture the world.

In the beginning, I took photographs for a racing news site called LongIslandJam.com. Back then I started photographing go-karts. Little kids dressed in fire suits, carrying around oversize helmets that somehow fit over their tiny heads as they strapped into small little racecars. Each of them competing for trophies while their parents surround the track and cheered from the sidelines, all of them hoping that their little one would cross the finish line first. Not only was capturing the smiling faces of the winning youngsters satisfying, but so was photographing behind-the-scenes as parents prepared the cars for each race. The experience of being behind-the-scenes and on the track allowed me to better understand that everything can be viewed from different angles. I eventually graduated to photographing larger racecars, adults who drove faster and more aggressively. Many times my lens would capture collisions only feet away from where I was standing. At about this time, I also began writing articles about the events that happened on the track and then paired the articles with my photographs.

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Photo Credit: Danielle McCormack

While I loved taking photographs of the racing events, I realized that the discipline of Journalism was not the form of writing that I enjoyed most. At about this time, I discovered the art of poetry during my freshman year of high school in Algebra I. My best friend sat next to me in class and I scolded her for not focusing on the lesson, instead she slipped me a piece of paper with a poem she had just written. Before then I never knew that thoughts and feelings could simply unfold on paper and I was captivated. When I first began writing poetry, I would compose six to ten poems a day. I would just let words flow naturally out of me.

Originally my poetry and photography had no relationship, they both remained two separate forms of my self-expression. Until I finally recognized that some of my photographs ended up being an inspiration for poems. It would be almost immediate. Right after I captured an image, my mind would start to form words to describe my experience, thoughts, and feelings. Once I became aware of this connection, I started using photography to prompt my poetry writing.

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Photo Credit: Danielle McCormack

At my little cousin’s dance recital, I snapped a photograph that prompted the writing of a poem and those larger questions that poetry explores. In the photograph, my family all had their faces buried in their phones. I tried numerous times to get their attention, but the devices in their hands hypnotized them all. The photograph provided a lens to a larger, seemingly contradictory experience, one of being isolated while surrounded by family because of social media. The image inspired my piece, “Unsocial Media.”

Through the structure of photography, I feel as though I am better able to train my eye to the image, and from there, to create a poem that explores the power of the image and its shades of meaning. Within these two mediums of creativity, I have discovered my essential artistic self-expression.

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