Photographs & Memories

The Pleasure of their Words

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
A while back, I started a thread about Inspiration from Art, but, just recently, I’ve been inspired by photographs.

Online resources for photos are many and most are free to use. I’m currently reading A Biography of Loneliness by Fay Bound Alberti. I usually look on the back flap to see who designed the cover and was surprised to find that there was no credit given other than Photo by Sweet Ice Cream on Unsplash—which is photo site.

Beautiful Free Images & Pictures | Unsplash

Presumably, someone at the Oxford University Press design department found the photo and added the title and author’s name. It’s an evocative image.


Richard Powers' novel Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance was inspired by a photograph taken by the renowned August Sander.


My friend Mish lives in Wyoming and is a skilful photographer, artist and maker. She buys old photographs at garage sales and repurposes them into collages, which she sells at art and craft markets.


We all take photographs in our mind, memories of happy and sad times. But our memory is rebuilt each time we access it. The plasticity of our memories fascinates me, but it can lead to autoplagiarism, as Oliver Sacks explains:

I've confirmed that recently by re-reading some of my old novellas and the first two Cornish Detective novels. Finding the same phrases and even whole sentences in different stories makes me feel like a cheating robot! :robot-face: What worries me about unintentionally cribbing from myself is that it makes my characters sound the same and that they're all mini-mes! A couple of them even look alike, as I based their appearance on an uncle of mine.

Had I used found images, I could have avoided this trap.

Do any of you get inspired by old photographs?

Your own or those found online?

Jim Croce - Wikipedia

Not old photographs, but when stories emerge from various sources while researching for genealogical history. Some of those stories are horrible, disgusting, enlightening, terrifying -- truth is always stranger than fiction, for two main reasons: humans are unpredictable in most circumstances, and fiction needs a shape for humans to follow the reasoning.
And yes, I've picked a few moments from those researches to put into characterisation in stories.
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The Pleasure of their Words

Organising Social Media: Hootsuite