What is the difference between a photograph of something and the thing itself? (DYM II.36)

By John Allen

Writer and filmmaker Ransom Riggs explores the power of photos in his recent book, Talking Pictures
I have an unusual hobby: I collect snapshots of people I don't know. I started collecting a few years ago — at swap meets, antique shops and the like — but the thing that got me started wasn’t the photos themselves so much as the scribbles I’d sometimes find on the backs. When you’re looking through bins of thousands of random, unsorted photos, every hundredth one or so will have some writing on it. It’s generally just identifying information (“me and Jerry at the Grand Canyon, 1947″), but every once in a while I'll find a something surprising, emotional, candid, hilarious, heartbreaking -- a few words that bring the picture to life in a profound new way, transforming a blurry black-and-white snapshot of people who seem a million miles and a million years away into an intensely personal sliver of experience that anyone can relate to. It becomes something not just to look at, but to listen to.
Here is Riggs's particularly powerful short film about Talking Pictures

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