"Photographs may have placed greater importance on the visual over the written. A picture, after all, is worth a thousand words."
The idea that Photographs could have placed greater importance on the visual over the written is most has some merit to it. Certainly identifying objects in a picture is as basic and natural a function as there could be for most people. Reading written language takes quite a bit more effort to do.
By comparison, the training needed to process even basic written language versus the simplicity of identifying objects with no training should make it clear that at our most basic level we can easily relate with images. Lets not forget that many children start off learning language by relating words to pictures when learning even their own native language. ‘Left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’ verbally oriented or spatially oriented it all rests on a foundation set upon relating to the world first visually.
With this is mind it makes sense that the in 10 short years early American publications went from an average 100 pictures per week to around 903 picture per week (Keller 2007, 163). Pictures draw attention to themselves as a reader scans a page, and even in the modern world where photo retouching is commonplace a photo brings a sense of authenticity. A viewer can pick out the pieces of an image that they can relate too and carry that same relationship to the parts they are not familiar with. When a viewer sees a picture of savannah in Africa they can project themselves into the area. If they visited that same place they would be able to pick out the elements from the picture. A written description while possibly igniting a desire to visit an area being described intellectually or by a romantic association, and certainly inviting the reader to create the peripheral areas of the scene, would not create that instantaneous mental relocation in the reader to a singular seemingly recognizable place.
“While a painting or a prose description can never be other than a narrowly selective interpretation, a photograph can be treated as a narrowly selective transparency.” (Sontag 2003, 167).
This isn’t to say that a picture is somehow better than a written description. A written description would supply information about the area which could add to the experience a ‘granite stone in the left corner’ lending itself much more useful than an image of an unknown grey rock. Written words greatest characteristic is its ability to bring in information from another source and insert it directly into context. However, as the fidelity of an image increases the need for textual descriptions decreases. A grey rock on the left side of an image can clearly be recognized as granite given a high enough fidelity. What if the viewer didn’t know the difference between granite and sandstone? No amount of image fidelity could replace the information that could be gained by words. In a way the foundational element...