They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
Meaning that every single photograph tells a longer story — every snapshot captures a moment in time in which life freezes; a tableau of time rendered in two dimensions — that would take an essay to describe.
Equating a picture with a thousand words intends to emphasize the photo’s efficiency over language. It takes a thousand of these individual words to do the work of one single photo.
Pictures lighten the load of language.
Yesterday, we were already oversaturated with pictures. The technologies of mass image capture, storage, and transmission have become quotidian and automatic today. Not only photographs but video, animation, GIFs, emoji, and icons define us. Pictures precede description.
If words and images are currency, it would seem that words are the bills of lesser value — it takes more of them to make up the cost of one picture.
But in a world awash in imagery, what is a thousand words worth? Words take a thousand times more time, and time is money, so words should be worth a thousand times more.
Inverse time is money in this instance, though; saving time is preferable to spending it. And so the photograph is capitalism’s proper tool because it represents so instantly, so cheaply.
Like a hammer, photos pound images into our consciousness; like a sickle, they reap their thousand words.◼︎
Memory freeze-frames; its basic unit is the single image. In an era of information overload, the photograph provides a quick way of apprehending something and a compact form of memorizing it. The photograph is like a quotation, or a maxim, or a proverb.Susan Sontag