Is a Picture Really Worth a Thousand Words?
Or can a thousand words even do a picture justice?
This is an amateur photo taken with a cell phone. The quality of the photo is not relevant to this experiment. It was a beautiful, pleasant, crisp, cold winter day. You could hear the wind chimes, feel the chill in the gentle breeze take your breath away, and smell the comforting smoke from the warm fire at home in fireplaces. So nice and homey!
I remember when as a child I was watching a kid’s show that claimed our view of cinematic events could change based on the type of music playing in the background. They illustrated this concept with a clip of an alligator walking on muddy ground towards some water. Sure enough, with spooky music playing in the background, the alligator looked ominous; with humorous music in the background, the alligator looked dopey; with relaxing music in the background, the alligator looked almost graceful. I was intrigued, even as a child. That lesson has stayed with me decades later.
The music is a strong catalyst to evoke the desired emotion from the viewer of the clip. I wonder if the reader’s view, or emotional reaction, of the same picture could change based on the title of the picture and the words used to describe it, using adjectives or adverbs explaining how all of the five senses felt.
Let’s try this!
When the Sky Attacked
My husband called out to me, “Sherry! Come take a look at this!” I heard a tremble in his voice that was rare for him, a tough and calloused veteran. I looked where he was pointing, and I gasped. I couldn’t believe my eyes!
Something about the sky was all wrong. The horses, though not galloping, were obviously agitated, pacing back and forth and throwing their heads up and down. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
My husband began to open the door leading out to the back deck. “No! Don’t!” I whispered loudly, with my voice cracking. He motioned for me to keep quiet, and nodded his head slowly as if saying, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.”
I didn’t have to say anything to tell him I didn’t believe him. But, he slowly opened the door anyway, and I shakily followed, my curiosity getting the better of my fear.
Immediately, the low, pulsating sound could be heard. No, felt. The sound could be felt in my ears, almost tickling to the back of my throat.
There was also a type of electrical smell in the air. It smelled like cigarette lighters overheating in older cars.
As I looked up at the clouds, I noticed that the movement within the clouds was unnatural. While the large cloud base was slowly moving south to north, a small portion in the middle was first moving in the opposite direction, and it jerked and changed directions, then jerked and changed directions again and again several times, as if the clouds were indecisive about which direction to go.
I felt dizzy and nauseous. This movement was not natural and I couldn’t make sense of it.
I opened my mouth to talk, and as I did my mouth filled with a burning taste so strong my eyes filled with tears. This sensation tickled then burned my nose, and I sneezed.
As I gulped in the putrid air before my sneeze, my lungs filled with the burning — what, chemicals? I gagged, lost my balance and my husband helped me back in the house. I dropped on the couch and convulsed with coughing as if I had breathed in a lung full of water.
When I was finally able to breathe without coughing, I looked up at my concerned husband through my tears and asked with a hoarse, painful voice, “What is that?”
“I don’t know honey. I don’t know.” he said, again with the tremble in his voice that I had once thought was the strangest observation, before we went outside.
An ominous feeling of dread replaced our curiosity, and we sat there, wondering what our fate would be, and when we would meet it.
What do you think? Look back at the picture. Does it look more ominous? If not, what do you think could have been said to create the desired reaction?