We’ve all heard the old saying that a picture says a thousand words. Many of us, as we grow older, live in homes decorated in photographs – of ourselves, our family, our friends and other loved ones, and together these images tell stories about our lives. Most of us will keep these our whole lives, and pass them on to our descendants – something that is becoming even easier in this digital age.
Ransom Riggs (mostly known for his book Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, which I’ll discuss in a later post), is a little different. He collects images of other people, people he doesn’t know, and he has done since he was a young boy, when he first started sifting through old photos for sale at antique stores and markets. As an adult, he has become obsessed not just with the photo, but with the captions often written on the back of the photographs which can sometimes illuminate something special about the picture not particularly obvious on its own.
Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued From The Past showcases some of his favourite and most powerful of his collected photos and their accompanying captions. There are over 300 pages of different images, all put into particular categories; “Clowning Around” includes pictures of people having fun and playing pranks, while there are other chapters looking into love and marriage, wartime photos, and even a chapter dedicated to one person in particular, a little girl called Janet Lee whose short but tragic life story is captured in just a few photos and captions.
While it seems like such a weird obsession, it only takes a look through a few pages of this book before you find yourself totally immersed and understanding why Riggs collects these images – while the photos on their own do tell stories, the captions help the stories become more complex, with a much stronger emotional resonance. The sad stories are completely heartbreaking, while the fun stories are cheeky and bound to put a smile on your face.
As a writer, I am drawn to the idea that we can find stories in the simplest of things, and in the most unlikely of places. Ransom Riggs has found a treasure trove of stories, and this book is a must read for anybody with a love of writing, stories or even just quirky photos. You won’t regret it, and you certainly won’t forget it.
Have you read this or Riggs’ novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children? What were your thoughts?
*All images taken from Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued From The Past by Ransom Riggs.