Writing great visual description is similar to taking an artful photograph. The focus of the description must be clear and present to the eye. In a photograph, we perceive the relationship between foreground and background. Our eye is guided by the structure of the image. Our senses respond to rich, vivid, colorful details. When we write, we pay attention to these same elements and fabricate them in our descriptions with carefully chosen language.
A tractor may be old and rusted but the palette of reds and blues and golds against a white farm building create a harmony of shades that entices the eye even as the structure of the tractor draws the eye forward to the grill in front. The white farm building is a simple, eloquent background creating a contrast that at once compares old to new and rich hues to simple white.
The relationship between the tractor and the farm building calls to mind William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheel Barrow.” His poem begins “So much depends upon the red wheel barrow . . . ” speaking to that interdependence between man and machine on a farm so evident along the Iowa roads. The relationship is a stark reality, but how we perceive it is influenced by the details. The wheel barrow is “sparkling with rain water” even as the tractor glimmers its muted, rich hues in the sun.
Description is in the details, whether they be drops of water or flakes of colorful rust. Let your eyes choose your words and bring that mental picture to life for your reader. An entire world can unfold from a single image.
Photographs courtesy of Bill Graeser. To see more of his photography go to https://plus.google.com/photos/107550539024161977376/albums/5764086496454335073?banner=pwa