I know I’m basically a wordsmith.
I am quite capable of getting into a fight over the placement of a comma versus a semi colon and have been known to channel Stannis Baratheon from Game of Thrones by murmuring “Fewer!” at the television news when someone says, “The are less people on the streets because of the lockdown”.
Once a journalist, always a journalist I suppose.
But the role of pictures in communications cannot be overstated.
The famous saying about a picture being worth a thousand words apparently is not several millennia old, although it sounds as if it ought to be.
It was in fact coined just a century ago by an advertising executive, Fred R. Barnard.
He was trying to get attention (or “clicks” as it’s known these days) for his agency’s efforts so he put an ad in Printer’s Ink in 1921 with the headline “One Look Is Worth a Thousand Words”.
To make it sound more profound he claimed it was from an ancient Japanese philosopher, later changing the attribution it being a Chinese proverb; anything to avoid people thinking it was just another cynical 1920s era Don Draper style slogan to sell stuff.
The point is, as soon as you read it, you know it to be true.
This was brought home to me this week when I saw a picture which caused my heart to sink.
Some idiot had graffitied the clubrooms of the Ajax Jewish footy club here in Melbourne at the weekend with anti-Semitic and indigenous slogans.
Not much room for misinterpretation when it comes to something like “Nazi Jews” or “Kike”.
But there was something heartening about the context in which I saw the photo of the attack for the first time – it was a Facebook post by Liberal Party Senator for Victoria, David Van.
He was roundly condemning it as utterly un-Australian and supporting efforts to find the idiots who had done it.
Somehow that combination of a very disturbing picture and positive, supportive words made a huge impression.
Being someone who is always noodling around with various social media tools, I was inspired to put them together in a simple picture combining both elements.
It listed the basic facts about the attack above the photo of the daubed slogans, a pull quote from Senator Van’s Facebook statement, and a simple “Thank you” to him for speaking up next to his photo.
Simple, clear, and yet effective.
Attack, response, acknowledgement.
It takes you from negative to positive in a single glance, in a way that words by themselves couldn’t.
I posted it on my own social media, and to an Australian Jewish Facebook group where several people have liked it.
This is perhaps one of the more positive ways modern social media technology is enabling wider communications, helping us respond to negative events with an uplifting message and acknowledging that support.
It’s a small enough thing in itself, but it shows the effectiveness of combining words and pictures and using modern technological interconnectedness to light a candle rather than just curse the darkness.