I often ask myself which comes first: the quote or the image? If you’ve been following my personal social media accounts for any length of time you know I enjoy pairing quotes with my images. But which comes first? Do the quotes find existing images or do the quotes inspire images?

Honestly I’m not sure why I even started using quotes. Was it something I read as a way to engage the audience? Is it a gimmick I learned from years of using Instagram? All I know is that it started way back in the dark ages of social media and I like it. In some ways using other peoples words on my images might seems like a copout; I should do original. Although our current G+ contest, “Caption This” has shown me that there are plenty of clever wordsmiths in our group and I’m not one of them

“I quote others only in order the better to express myself.” Michel de Montaigne

I’m not alone

While the fad of using quotes on social media posts has long faded, I still find myself drawn to finding interesting quotes to give my images a different slant. I’ve come to find that I’m not the only quoting maniac; it seems I’m in good company. Paul Holdengräber, Director of LIVE from the New York Public Library and a fabulous literary interviewer, often peppers his conversations with quotes. I’m a frequent listener of his podcast, A Phone Call from Paul, and he seems to have a quote for every situation.

Using quotes may seem pretentious, but for me, they connect me to my work and they connect me to writers and thinkers far more talented than I. There is something comforting knowing that some of the greatest philosophers of the ages have many of the same doubts, worries, and concerns that I do.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
― Leo Tolstoy

Are quotes simply a crutch?

I’ve often wondered if quotes are simply a crutch because I’m too lazy to write my own captions. I’m sure there are people who follow me who feel I should be using my own words. In fact I have friends who have encouraged me to create my own unique stories for my images. I’m sure if I got serious, I could write my own stories. Unfortunately there is always some other shiny bauble distracting me from the task at hand.

“Writing is a muscle that needs to be exercised every day: The more you write, the easier it becomes.” Jane Green

I admire greatly the artists that are able to mine their own experiences or their creative writing skills to create words as unique as their images. Part of me wishes that I was the one creating amazing and challenging work. Until that happens I will cheer on those who have taken the plunge.

Switching it up

Which comes first? Currently the images come first and then I search for a suitable quote based on how I feel when I look at the image. But I wonder what would happen if I can flipped this equation on its head? What if I found a quote a created an image?

A book came into my life recently that might be the answer: Breathing On Your Own. It’s a book of quotes unlike any other I’ve encountered. It was compiled by collage artist and author Richard Kehl. What I like about this one is that they are organized by categories, some of them decidedly different. For example Confusion, Ambiguity, Invisibility, truth/lies and save from a fire are just a few of the categories. Also the subtitle gives another clue that this isn’t your typical quote book: Quotations for independent thinkers.

“The task is to break the hypnotic spell, so that we become undeaf, unblind and multilingual, thereby letting the world speak to us in new voices and write all its possible meanings in the new book of our existence.” Sidney Jourard

Maybe I can switch up my creative working style on its head? I wonder what would happen if I choose the quote first and then take a photo? Will my results be any different? Or maybe I’m simply trying to hard?

Creative inspiration

Like many of my cohorts on the blog I’ve had a hard time creating new work.  I’ve not taken a photo in several weeks. The combination of the ‘pants on fire’ news cycle and a particularly heavy workload has sapped my creative energy. I spend more time thinking about taking photos than actually taking them. I’ve revisited the mind map I created earlier this year and I have lots of ideas bubbling around in the back of my head. I’m keeping a list of photo ideas that I’m hoping to implement next week when Brett and I will be touristing in the Pacific Northwest.

Which come first? Is it the quote or the image? Or does time and inspiration actually play a bigger part in creating work? Or does any of it even matter?

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Instead of worrying which comes first, the quote or the image, maybe I need to simply do the work. I’m grateful that next week I will have many hours and days to do that work alongside some of my closest friends and toy photography buddies at the #ORToyPhotoSafari.

~ Shelly

Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you?

Do you like to create your own unique headings or use others words like I do?

Or do you like to leave space for the viewer to create their own story? 


“The first step…shall be to lose the way.” ~ Galway Kinnell