I am often asked what the early influences were in my creative life. I reply by listing the most important- my parents, Elliot Porter, Sierra Club books, my dear friends John Shaw and Wayne Lynch- but there is one that has nothing to do with photography but everything to do with whatever success I have attained.
Very early in my career I was told to read the book “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. This small but compelling book perhaps had the greatest effect on sustaining my career, from taking me from being just a photographer to being rather a writer and photographer. In so doing I found my voice. Is there a greater gift a book can give?
William Zinger died yesterday at age 92- a quiet man who devoted himself through his teaching and writing to clarity and the elimination of clutter in writing. I remember reading his book and then rereading something I had just written and deleting practically every other word. I do it still. That last sentence started out to be twice as long until I’ Zinssered’ it.
“There is not much to be said about the period except that most writers don’t reach it soon enough” typifies what William Zinsser espoused. But it is more than just brevity. From concision comes your voice and from your voice comes your power. When done carefully and with much heart the result is magic. What power, what magic I have conjured in my writing is in large part due to William Zinsser.
So if you want your photography to do more, if you want it to have impact, have a voice, buy On Writing Well and add some (concise) words to your images. You will be amazed at the power that will result. I have always said that writing is the result of rewriting and great writing is the result of great rewriting. William Zinsser taught me that. Thank you.