“douglas kirkland link”

A Photo is Worth How Many Words?

Old Malay Man seeking alms.

Old Malay Man seeking alms.

Do you mind if I ramble a little? OK, good, thank you, but I was going to anyway.

How many photos nowadays do you see that actually have A LOT of substance, meat on the bone, full of fiber, sticking to your ribs kind of goodness?

A bunch…a bundle…a gaggle…not many…not so many…?

Sure, everyone and their dog has a digital camera nowadays, and sometimes the dog can even crack off a decent shot, but not too often I suspect.

After being around photography these many years, and seeing all kinds, types, shapes and sizes of photography, there is one thing I know…one thing that is abundantly clear to me…one thing that is ultimately and extremely beyond a shadow of a doubt, without argument, clear…is that a Glamour Shot is a “Wow” shot (in so many cases):  This type of photography almost always grabs viewer attention and soaks up comments like a sponge.

Even if the photo technicalities in a glamour image are questionable, as long as the model is HOT (Pretty Hot, Reasonably Hot!), then there are bound to be numerous accolades for that image.   Without a single doubt, it is a ‘WOW Photo!”

If you don’t believe it, just pop over to Flickr and see how each and almost every Glamour Photo gets umpteen gillion (always wanted to use that term) – “Wow Hot Babe!” comments.

And, I would agree, I must confess, I LOVE glamour photography too. What’s not to like? You have a beautiful woman, often in skimpy outfits. Period. Boom! Slam-dunk! Instant Hit among the Photo Community.

And, I must confess (more confessions people), that I have given my fair share of “ATTABOYS!”…with thoughtful reflections such as…”Beautimous Model with fine sensuous curves, and I love how the light flows over her natural beauty!” Ah Yes! Like Wind Song the comments fly from my keyboard…

And….while that may be the case, and while glamour photography is highly popular, how many words are glamour photographs really worth?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know, for sure, that most glamour photos are worth at least three words:

“Wow – She’s – Hot!”


Yeap, at least those are typically the first words that come to my mind, but it usually isn’t about the image, it’s a comment about the model. 

And that is OK I think. Isn’t it?

Moving into a totally different direction:  In contrast to glamour photography, on-the-spot Street Photography and Photojournalism MUST TELL A LOT with only a visual. In many cases, the visuals, the photographs sell the story. The photographs in Photojournalism and Street Photography would be total duds if they did not convey quickly 1,000, or 10,000 words about a subject, person, place or thing.

Therefore, I guess, we can love Glamour Photography for the short story it tells – “Wow She’s Hot!” And, we should appreciate just as much, the hard hitting news and street photography for the poignant stories they tell about life, struggles, joy, and often times, death and destruction.

As with everything, there are most assuredly many exceptions to the points I’ve brought up.

And, I’m not sure if this next mention has much to do with this blog entry or not. However, one of my favorite photographers is Douglas Kirkland, and I think that Mr. Kirkland is such a master of photographing the human body, that his images naturally tell stories, they have extreme substance.


Great glamour and human form photography take a lot of talent to create. A great glamour photograph comes about as a collaboration between a photographer who can use skillful techniques, and who can work seamlessly with a gorgeous model who has the power to “seduce” the lens (so to speak).

A good glamour photograph will usually get the “Wow She’s Hot!” responses.

A GREAT glamour photograph will not only get the, “Wow She’s Hot (but also)…and look at how the photographer did that…and look how she positioned her leg in that way…and how in the hell did the photographer make that shadow there…and on and on the wonders in words and questions spill out of the shot, and opening up a story behind a great photograph.

Maybe a good photo is worth a short phrase.  And, perhaps a great photograph is worth 10,000 words.

So, how many words are photographs worth anyway?