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Photographing Written Works

Updated on September 27, 2013
"Me in Time" Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0
"Me in Time" Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Very few photographic projects will really test a photographer and make him or her work as hard as it is to capture inspiration.

Not just images that inspire people, but images adapted to fit the inspiration taken from a novel, a work of art, a manuscript, a poem, a literary work; in other words, to take a scene from a written work and recreate that particular scene in photography to the extend that once the photo is viewed it will truthfully recreate what the author intended when the book, magazine article, novel or poem was written.

Here the photographer will not only have to understand the metaphors found in the reading, decipher what the author is trying to portray, especially in poetry, but will also have to be adept in translating these inspirational "images" into real photographs. To capture the intent of the author.

Depending on the chosen inspiration or written "scene", the photographer may be able to reproduce it quickly and without much work or this can become so absorbing and complex that it may take several days, weeks or months of preparation before the first shot is taken.

However, just as this project can become a difficult enterprise, so too can it become an enormous source of joy, and pride as well as a sense of achievement if its completed and does what it was meant to do.

It is not only taking a photo to literary recreate a scene, such as a battle scene in a work of fiction, but to also recreate the emotions, the futility, suffering and the struggle whose words the author inspires.

To see proof of how difficult this may seem, one needs just to go see a movie based on a literary work, such as the works of Homer or Shakespeare. Taking several years is quite usual in preparation, costume design, location search, wardrobe selection, and everything else that goes into the making of a Hollywood production.

Off course you need not go that far. With the advent of the digital format, several steps can be cut short, such as the digital introduction of backgrounds into photographs. Not using digital will require the help of craftsmen, and others just to recreate and mount a scene.

There are some companies that specialize in the creation of quality one of a kind sets/backgrounds for such work and they are quite successful and renown for this. Maybe this can become one of you areas of expertise.

Subtle lighting, some photographic filters and camera/lens manipulation will probably be required in order to set a particular mood, so be ready to try different things and to extend the boundaries of your imagination.

An example which I tried quite a few years ago just when I was starting into photography was to obtain the assistance of several of my college friends, both male and females, having to borrow some costumes from the drama department at my college, having to make a few hand made wardrobe creations and some props, the services of a make up artist complete with prosthetic ears and hair extensions and photographing scenes in a overgrown and densely wooded area of a local archery club target range.

The scene was set to imitate a part from a sci-fi novel set in ancient times, similar to scenes from the Lord of The Rings Trilogy, when trolls, elves, and ruffians ruled the land. Suffice it to say that the images were quite realistic and even better received by everyone involved and the general public. But the entire operation took exactly three months from conception to completion.

By borrowing from art and drama departments of your local colleges and using the assistance of volunteer students, this project can be done with little expense. Often some antique stores may let you borrow or you can rent some props. Often all it takes is to give away some complimentary copies of the shots.

"Towards the Light" Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)
"Towards the Light" Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) | Source

These images may be suitable for some art galleries. but they must be of exceptional quality. The most viable venue would be to sell them as prints individually and for submission to general photographic publications, photographic stock houses and such.

However, don't underestimate the learning and experiences that can take place while engaged in the entire process, which in turn might lead to bigger work.

The marketing and advertising industry, the product industry, movie production companies, theme parks and record labels are always looking for innovative talent in all aspects of their industry, so this could be your ticket to fame. This work can also lead to a portrait niche in the wedding, fantasy as well as in other photographic genres.

Always keep in mind that the source for your "images" and the message gathered from the written work will greatly determine the level of work involved in the creation of the scene. A good rule of thumb is to go simple whenever possible.

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      7 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Chaotic Chica: Thank you, It looks like you are on your way to being an excellent photographer if not so already.

    • Chaotic Chica profile image

      Chaotic Chica 

      7 years ago

      Filled with wonderful ideas and great tips on how to accomplish them successfully. You do not fail to inspire, sir!

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      7 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Thank you Cardisa, I appreciate your comments

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      I can't imagine photography being boring at all. This is a great way of capturing a particular scene, moment or emotion. Good job Luis.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      7 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Interesting idea!

    • emichael profile image


      7 years ago from New Orleans

      This may be something I look into, actually. Thanks :)

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      7 years ago from Miami, Florida

      emichael: thank you.

      If you want to photograph for your own pleasure then a simple camera like a Canon Powershot is good and you can start to recreate simple scenes from your favorite literary works.

    • emichael profile image


      7 years ago from New Orleans

      If I was any good at photography at all, this would definitely be what I would enjoy. I love reading and the world of literature. To bring that to life in photography seems like it would be so much fun. But as you point out, a LOT of work, too.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      7 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Justom: thanks buddy

    • justom profile image


      7 years ago from 41042

      Good hub Luis. I have a relative who's an actress and years ago when she was in school (she went to the local performing arts school) I shot some plays she was in and found it boring. Just my 2 cents but I do totally agree with your hub over all! Peace!! Tom


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