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The Art Of Show And Tell…

October 13, 2021

In 2019, Jugular magazine asked me to write an essay about their special issue that focused on words and images. What follows is my essay as it appeared in the magazine. Enjoy

The Art of Show and Tell

Words By Samir  Husni

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

Since the beginning of time there have been words—the best of words and the worst of words, and a whole lot more in between. From the start, there was no question which came first, the word or the image. Words were, are, and will remain center stage in any delivery platform. Specifically, when it comes to the magazine platform, words are the heart of the body that keeps on ticking and the pivot that keeps the world of information turning.

Both well-executed sentences and poorly chosen words can create all kinds of reactions: physical and emotional reactions, calming and violent reactions, and soothing and hurtful reactions. After all, it has been said the pen is mightier than the sword. But here is the question at hand: Is the word mightier than the image?

Needless to say, it was the magazine that first united the word with the image. It was the magazine that introduced the world to the concept of storytelling in which words and pictures went hand in hand. Generations before movies and television, which incorporated audio into the experience of storytelling, magazine pages pioneered the art of show and tell. 

And since the word came first, like any other new invention, once the image was created, it took over and the word climbed into the backseat. Just think about when digital was first introduced and compare that to print; suddenly digital was the new seductive mistress roaming the streets, while print continued to be the loving, patient spouse waiting for its partner to regain its senses and end the fascination with this new thing called digital.  The same happened with the word when the image arrived, but what about now? If the combination of the word and image was the first reproduction of humanity’s ability to speak and see, then how has human communication changed in how we connect today? It used to be necessary to meet in person in order to engage in a conversation, but now dialogue is mainly conducted through virtual connectivity or what I call isolated connectivity. We feel today like we are so connected, yet were sitting alone with a phone or a laptop, with no one else in the room. Is this the future? Images without words?  Well, if you are happy with just looking at a person without speaking a word, then you will enjoy just looking at the images without reading a word. Often, not even a caption.

There is no doubt that images provide us with a lot of satisfaction mentally, emotionally, and physically, but remember the old saying, “you can’t judge a person by just looking at him or her.” I believe that using images or words by themselves is like being in a relationship with oneself. It may be satisfying for some time, but at the end of the day, it is never as fulfilling.  The combination of the word and the image is what takes that mono-relationship and changes it from just looking and observing to doing. That combination is what changes the content from just content to an experience,  an experience that will manifest itself in a quick relationship, a one night stand, a fiery short-term relationship, a love affair, or a long lasting relationship that goes through the good, the bad, and the ugly—a marriage if you will.

None of these relationships can exist without the viewer’s engagement and that’s my belief behind the power of the combination of the word and the image. It is that engagement that requires the combination of the two. It is the difference between making love with your eyes and making love with your entire body. I don’t need to expand on this, you be the judge.  To paraphrase the famous art director George Lewis, it is the difference between looking at a person and making love to a person. There is no comparison.

So in this digital world we live in, the engagement between the word and the image is what creates that experience and transports us to whatever world the content is creating. The marriage of words and images becomes one of true love and commitment, one that we lose ourselves in willingly and completely. With words added to the images there is a beginning and  an end to the story, just as in any good relationship. With just images, such as the digital world offers, there is no end. You can continue to stare at the images and continue to travel through the virtual world endlessly, a meaningless relationship that actually takes you nowhere. With words, as with ink on paper pages, there is an end. A full stop. A reminder of reality that something is over.

To me that is the power of the word. The reminder that something is over and you can now take a deep breath, relax, and bask in the fact that you’ve accomplished something to the end.  Your mind now can feel at ease, can stop wondering and you can feel fulfilled.

So, can you have a magazine without words?  Sure you can, but to me it will be like watching a movie with the mute button on. Words and images combined are a reflection of our human nature, and the more they interact with each other the better the engagement and the experience. 

You don’t have to take my word for it. This issue of Jugular provides you with your own experiment. Take a look, judge for yourself, and hope the words you discover will be the blood that flows through your own jugular vein, making your heart race with all kinds of emotions. And when you finally close that last page of the magazine, you will know then that you’ve reached the end of the race. You’ve arrived.

Sit back, relax, engage, and enjoy the art of storytelling in a way that no other platform can provide, the magazine. In the beginning was the word, and in the end the word will be. It is the Alpha and Omega. 

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