The Implications Of The Images

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2023-03-21 17:00:00-04:00 No comments

Purchase on Amazon

These past couple of weeks saw the arrival of some new artbooks into my collection: a catalog for an exhibition of Emi Wada (Kurosawa's RAN)'s costume designs; the Anime Architecture hardback; Underworld: Sites Of Concealment (all you urban-exploration fans will want this); and — this kinda classifies? -- The Ghost In The Shell: Fully Compiled, a massive hardcover three-in-one of the manga. I'm still reading books, of course, but the majority of my big spending has gravitated towards art and design tomes.

Some of these books sit in what I call the "forever shelf" to the right of where I am typing this. Every now and then when I'm in the middle of one sentence or another, I reach for one of them, open to a random page, and get a little inspiration. The shelf expands and changes membership over time, but a few titles have established themselves as constant presences, like an all-in-one-volume overview of Sorayama's work, or a similar one for H.R. Giger. At some point I mean to post pictures and walkthroughs of all this stuff, just for fun. But what I'm posting about today is the significance of these things for my writing and creative work generally.

The most obvious way these things inspire me is just by giving me something I can visualize as being part of whatever I'm writing. Sometimes I look at a Sorayama painting and I get a character idea, for instance. (At least one entire upcoming book revolves heavily around this.) Sometimes it's about getting ideas for a setting or an atmosphere. But another, subtler thing that happens is when I look at things and ruminate about their implications. Why is something the way it is? What's the story behind that? And so from that can come setting, backstory, normative ideas that drive a story (you know how I am about that stuff).

I don't like to spend a lot of time dumping information about the world on the reader, because it's bad form. If I must do it, I'll do it in a way that feels more like the guy on the bus next to you grousing about the news, because at least that way it has color and personality. I'd rather have those things leavened in over time, and through circumstance. A picture captures the state of things at a given moment and just gives it to you, and you have to appreciate what you see and what it means on your own. When I draw inspiration from these images, I don't want people to feel the result is I'm describing a picture, but that I'm putting you in it.

One of my favorite record reviews of all time has this sentence: "There's so much in this record, I almost don't even see it as just a record anymore. It's like a 3D movie if 3D actually did what it's supposed to do: put you right in the middle of the movie, like it's not happening in front of you but all around you." Immersion in a story is difficult, because some readers will always — whether or not they are conscious of it — look for ways to reaffirm that what they are reading is in fact "just a story". The more you give them something that feels seamless, lived-in, uncontrived, the less they look for those seams in the scenery and the more they pay attention to the story actually being told.

When I was really young, and first becoming aware of how images fueled stories for me, I kept a large binder of pictures I'd clipped from magazines that I wanted to use as story material someday. I still do something like this, but my motives have changed. I don't just want to look for pictures that kick off a story in my head, but I want to know, what is it about this picture that kicks things off? And what's behind the picture; what's the thing I'm really trying to express other than, say, a style or an atmosphere? Those are not things I am going to ever had a single, fixed, definitive answer for. The answers will be as fluid as whatever it is I'm looking at.

Tags: Emi Wada H. R. Giger Hajime Sorayama artbooks artists creativity visualization