Thursday, March 29, 2012


"A picture is worth one thousand words".....and in some instances much more.  All of us have been moved to an emotional reaction from an image that just won't go away.  It's like it's embedded forever. 

So, where the heck did that quote ever come from anyway?   Here's what I found in some research I did:  The idea that a picture can convey what might take many words to express was voiced by a character in Ivan S. Turgenev's novel Fathers and Sons, 1862: "The drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book."

A similar idea was seen very widely in the USA from the early 20th century, in adverts for Doan's Backache Kidney Pills, which included a picture of a man holding his back and the text "Every picture tells a story".

Neither of the above led directly to 'a picture is worth a thousand words'. Who it was that married 'worth ten thousand words' with 'picture' isn't known, but we do know that the phrase is American in origin. It began to be used quite frequently in the US press from around the 1920s onward. The earliest example I can find is from the text of an instructional talk given by the newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane to the Syracuse Advertising Men's Club, in March 1911:  "Use a picture. It's worth a thousand words."

This phrase was never more evident than on November 25, 1963 when a young UPI photographer captured one of the most poignant and reproduced images of the past half-century.  "One exposure on a roll of 36 exposures,” Stan Stearns marveled decades later:  little John F. Kennedy Jr., grief-stricken, saluting his father, President John F. Kennedy's coffin as it rolled by on a caisson.

"Just the mention of the salute can still revive memories for those who lived through that day. It remains one of perhaps a handful of pictures that evoke the span of the mid-20th century along with Joe Rosenthal’s image of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima during World War II" said Adam Bernstein of the Washington Post. 

More recently we've had images that have presented themselves from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Those pictures have been gut-wrenching and others heartbreaking as one of my Facebook friends alluded to in regards to the picture below.  One of a brave "little military man" saluting his father's casket.

There are four other pictures that come to mind as I think about the significance of their impact to not only garner our attention.....but one that grabs hold and doesn't let go.  One is of a soldier in Afghanistan who is offering his condolences and prayers to five of his company's fallen.


And then there is Petty Officer Jon Tumilson's dog, Hawkeye, that captured national news with his reverent and compassionate loyalty as he laid next to his master's casket.

And these two awesome images........

and a picture that speaks of tragedy and Hope all in one..

As you can see, pictures do tell a story and in some cases more than one.  And as we've been led to believe, a picture is worth a thousand words.   

The blog today is in remembrance of all the photographers who have spent their lives trying to "capture the moment".  Bu specifically, I want to remind you of Stan Stearns, the John-John photographer.  Stearns passed away on March 2nd of this year.  He was 76. 

For Mr. Stearns, the compensation for his most noted photograph was entirely in glory.
“I got $25 for winning picture of the month” at UPI, he said. “That and my regular paycheck.  It’s frustrating when I think of how much money that picture has made in the last 30 years. Probably $3 million to $5 million.”

We'll never be able to repay Mr. Stearns for his work.  That's a given.  And it should be noted that of the 70 photojournalists cramped into a space made for half that many that November day, only two captured the image of the famous salute.  Most had their attention focused on Jackie Kennedy.  

If that's not saying something...



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