You can capture a moment in time in a variety of ways. If it’s important or impactful enough, it will often cement itself in your memory. Artists like Vincent Van Gogh attempted to capture a subject or an object as they stood, sat, or lay perfectly still; though these works are often beautiful, from the moment the painting starts, the initial moment in which they looked upon the subject is gone, and a thousand other moments between the first glance and the finished piece pass. Writers attempt to capture a moment through words, making every moment as long or as short as they want, sometimes delving into the minute details of this specific place in time. But this too has its limitations—what a writer says happened in a moment is their own interpretation, and it can be hard to discern what you might have felt if you had personally experienced that moment. Photography is a more modern way to capture a moment in time, and is probably the most familiar to us. It captures a scene, a person, or a thing or an action with an image, encapsulating a moment, preserving it. This is often what people say is the most accurate way to capture a moment in time, but it too, falls short, for it does not allow the viewer to experience what it was like in that moment, and only gives the viewer the sense of sight. For example, if you saw a photo of the Grand Canyon, you can see its grandness, its richness, its beauty. But when you actually visit the Grand Canyon, you experience its majesty, its wonder, and its depth in a new way, something you cannot get from photography.
This is why combinations of these elements are so impactful for people to better understand a singular moment. This is why movies are so powerful—the combination of multiple senses, sight and sound, allow viewers to find themselves more fully immersed in the moment the director, writer, or actor is attempting to portray. Granted, some movies do this better than others, and there are still limitations like not being able to experience the character’s thoughts or feeling other senses, but the combination of these elements allows for a richer viewing experience that attracts people. This is why art pieces sometimes have artist statements—the artist’s view into the piece they created can give the viewer a greater perspective on the moment the author attempted to capture.
This is why the pieces for the Muse, even this piece, have a photo associated with them—the combination of multiple elements, a photo and writing, can give the writing color or blandness, depth or shallowness, beauty or a despairing tone. The photo can also prepare you for the writing; it can give you a lens with which to look at the writing, set a scene for the writing, or establish the environment in the piece.
One book that I believe beautifully combines photography and writing is Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It’s part of a six book series that follows the journey of Jacob, a 16 year old from Florida who, in the aftermath of his grandfather’s death, follows the clues his grandfather left behind to, well, Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children, located on a misty, dreary island in the United Kingdom. Each child in this home has extraordinary abilities—one can make fire with her hands, another can turn invisible, and another is plagued with dreams of the future.
But what makes this story, and this series, so unique, is the old vintage photographs that are embedded throughout the book. Each photograph is original, collected by the author from archives and markets, placed carefully, captured in all their haunting glory. The photographs correspond with the scenes and characters, so that when you meet a new character, you are introduced to (at least, in the first three books) a black-and-white photograph of them.
The black and white photography adds to the book’s aura of mystery and darkness, of thrill and horror, of stillness and suspense. It makes you see the characters in a new way, because the author has used the photographs to capture the setting or the character’s looks or actions and used his words to capture the character’s thoughts, feelings, motivitations, and reactions to their environment.
When I read this for the first time, the story left an impact on me; the chilling photographs bore their way into my mind and the words that corresponded with the photographs gave me a full and real picture to take with me. I remember feeling every emotion more vividly as I read the story because of the photographs, because of these moments in time captured years ago, preserved, and recreated in a new way. I recommend this book if you are seeking a unique read, if you’re a fan of fantasy and thriller, and if you want to be immersed in a story. And if you’ve read it already, pick it up again. It’s an easy read, and it won’t take too much effort to get lost in it all over again.
If you don’t think this book is for you, I still hope you can appreciate the combinations of different mediums in other literature, movies, and just storytelling in general. It’s interesting to realize how much richer a moment becomes when you attempt to capture it in its fullness, using multiple resources to give people a more vivid window into that moment, into the story you’re trying to tell through it. I hope that you can go from today with a new lens on how to see these Muse pieces, movies, and so much more. I hope you can find creative ways to capture moments in your own life, and appreciate others’ attempt to capture one for you.
Photo Credit: The Collection of Roselyn Leibowitz