Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hunting Metaphors

I went with my guy and the kid to a flea market this past weekend, but the allure of cheap plastic clogs, temporary tattoos and cardboard bins of slightly dusty, almost-designer handbags couldn't compete with all the stuff waiting beyond in the fields behind the warehouses. I left my loved ones nibbling on boiled peanuts and headed for the really gritty outdoor section.

There's about an acre of everything you've ever seen set out at a garage sale, donated to a thrift store or abandoned to quietly rust in a field, multiplied by dozens, even hundreds. While I always love getting the perfect beautiful shot, I'm also drawn to things that are not so perfect; things left behind, things that were forgotten, and other debris piles from the past.

This is the kind of place where my camera and I mine for descriptions, by taking shots of interesting/ugly objects to study later, but this time I hit a metaphoric goldmine. Everywhere I looked I saw something that defined something else for me, so much so that I took out the notepad in my purse and started taking notes.

Here are a few of the snapshots, and what they made me think (to find out what that was, place your cursor over the image. To see a larger version, click on the image):

I spent a lot of time photographing the glassware tables. On this one everything felt brittle, crowded, transparent, uncomfortable, as if one wrong move would sending everything crashing. Everything here wants to see and be seen. Glassy expressions, gaping mouths, dangerous proximities, but nothing real or especially attractive.

Also lots of rusty things to be admired. This conglomeration of old bikes probably hasn't been moved in years. They've been left all jammed together, but when you look at each one it's as if they are wheedling you to give them another chance: "Come on, I still work. Buy me. Rescue me. Take me for a ride again."

I don't know their name, but these are such shy flowers, too bashful to even raise their blooms. I remember all the years I felt like this -- like if I kept my head down and said nothing, I wouldn't get stomped. And yeah, that actually doesn't work. If you listen you can almost hear them whisper, "Nothing to see here, lady, just move along." Still lovely, though, and wistful.

This is back inside, but when I looked up and saw the sunlight sparkling through this curtain of crystal I had to get the shot. Each gem threw its own rainbows and glitter at my head. All the shapes and colors -- how could you choose to take just one? Their dazzle makes you into a greedy kid. You want them all.

The lovely thing about hunting and collecting visual metaphors are the many ways you can use them; they don't have to be assigned a single meaning. The hanging crystals are definitely going in the story I'm working on now; they'll serve very well as part of a characterization. I like the rusty bikes, too, and I think I know just how to use them to illustrate a chunk of backstory.

Keeping a photographic metaphor journal can be a fun way to collect your visual trophies. If you're not into taking your own photographs, look for images online you can print out or cut out from magazines. If you don't want to keep a paper journal, put together a video or slideshow (everyone does music playlists for their stories, why not a video playlist?)

If you'd like to see more examples, I uploaded the best of my shots from this day and made a Visual Metaphors online photo album here.


  1. Great post. :) The connections you drew made me smile, and I'm glad at least one was not cynical! ;)

  2. Hi Lynn,
    ahh.. that sounds pretty much fun... i love going to such places... and i would love to try one of these rusty bikes, but obviously not the one without tires :)

    I don't know why, but past always seems like a beautiful dream and these things also tell you they had a glorious past and it touches you heart

  3. I love nailing a good metaphor but it doesn't come naturally to me. Thanks for the reminder to practice it in real life so it comes more easily in fiction.

  4. Anonymous9:16 AM

    I love that paragraph about the flowers, I think we all feel that way at one point or another.

    Keep up the good work. I just started following you, but I'm definitely hooked on your blog now!

  5. Anonymous10:21 AM

    heh heh. Love your captions. And, FYI -- which you've got to already know -- excellent photography! Really nice images.

    Bess Morgan
    (who can't be bothered looking up her Google password to sign in)

  6. Great photos in your Visual Metaphors album. I loved the gnarly cherub and the rusted chair buried in the tall grass.

  7. As a lurker, I feel compelled to tell you the flowers are Brugmansia-- Angel's Trumpets.

  8. The plants are a variety of Angel's Trumpets. Many of them open at night so that's probably why they are being shy.

    Love the pictures.

  9. Lovely pictures...and great captions for the photos here. The flowers are called Angel Trumpets around here. (NC)

  10. I think some days, I really am the cherub. And I have a whole stack of those windows...

    I love the pictures, but in this case, the captions really make them.

  11. Beautiful photos and inspiring comments too. Maybe I should get into the habit of including photos too.
    K ;-)

  12. Love your interpretation of the "Lurkers" ! I can relate, used to be like that as well.

  13. Ah, the ☼sparkly☼ crystals in The Magickal Muse! You know I named the shop that because I wanted her to provide inspiration to anyone who wanted/needed it! And she has fulfilled that mission hundreds of times, and I'm happy to see another one ☺


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.