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These words: those words

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

These words: those words

Andrew Ryan

Writing words meant only to be read by the eyes of other people is a funny feeling. It’s something that I am still not used to, even though I have been doing it in this format for nearly 6 years.

I know, logically, that 6 years isn’t a very long time, but from where I’m sitting, it feels huge.

That being said, I have been a “working” photographer for about 4 years longer than I have been a “working” writer. That’s about 10 years in total. 10 years capturing the things I see (mostly humans brandishing musical instruments and the tools with which to make them work – be they drum sticks or beer bottles), manipulating the light and the shadows until the combination satisfies my stylistic compulsion, and then showing these images to other humans, knowing that they will see what I want them to see based on that thing I originally saw, which they may or may not have seen too, and if they did, they did so from an entirely different perspective.

Which is what happens with writing, too, I suppose, only it’s different because images speak to a more primal portion of the brain than words. Written words are a late-game addition to the way humans learn to communicate as they grow, and to the way we learnt to communicate as our species evolved and explored this planet.

I am feeling a little sad. But that may very well be because there is a recording of Leonard Cohen playing my favourite of his songs blasting through my computer speakers. It is a sad song. That man tends to have such brutal depth of meaning in his word choices, and the tune plucked over the words making up the song in question has a sort of melancholic wistfulness, with a touch of lamentation, and a much slighter touch of pleading.

Writing words to be performed for the ears of other people is a very different game to the one I described in the opening of this column. It is a game that relies on vocal delivery instead of formatted layout on a page or screen, a game that relies on the attitude of the person performing to portray the intended message instead of the attitude of the reader when they take in the meaning of the words sitting in front of their eyes.

It has been a long time since I’ve written a script. I have never written a song that has been sung to anyone but myself.

I have known many people in my life who do that thing that I have never done.

The person closest to me does this. He sometimes performs songs not written by him to other people too. He’s very good at what he does with all that, and he’s being made increasingly aware of the power of his talent, his skill, his craft. It’s quite wonderful to watch: endlessly inspiring and invigorating. Exciting too.

And with every day that goes by I am made increasingly aware of the difference between our word crafts, the difference between word usage, word planning; the difference between being documented and doing the documenting. Performing in front of a large crowd of people in which your lover is present is pretty different to taking photos of your lover while being present in a large crowd of people. Writing a song about your lover to be played mostly to an audience of strangers is pretty different to writing a review of your lover’s album launch which happened in the city you both choose to currently live in to be published for the eyes of people who mostly live in the city you both originally hail from. I don’t want to do that, but the thought of it has not left my mind this week.

Facets of history, facets of humanity are full of lovers who write words for and/or about each other. Many, many words are written about lovers but appear not to be. A whole bunch of words are not written about lovers and could be interpreted as intended to be. Far more words have been written about anything but lovers and could never be interpreted as ever coming close to describing what it is to have or be a lover of another human being.

Words, huh? They give me funny feelings. Feelings almost as funny as when I love someone, I reckon.