To begin, select a photograph or a photo of a piece of art, which could be of a painting, sculpture, carving, etc that resonates with you in some way.
Freewriting: 2 minutes. Write a description—visual-only—of what you see in the photograph. Remember to avoid abstract nouns and adjectives; use concrete, specific details.
Freewriting: 2 minutes. Now write about the photo, attempting to use all five of your senses.
Freewriting: 10 minutes. Using at least one of the following prompts, now write about the photo:
- Write about the scene or subject being depicted in the artwork.
- Write about the mood of the work or the emotions depicted.
- Describe but imagine beyond the frame.
- Describe but incorporate researched materials.
- Make the main figure speak.
- Make the minor figure/s speak.
- Make objects speak.
- Make the artist/photographer speak.
- Write a dialogue among characters in a work of art.
- Write an imaginary journal entry for one of the people depicted in the artwork.
- “Re-frame” the artwork:
- Narrate a scene from the perspective of someone situated outside the artwork;
- Narrate a scene from the perspective of someone inside the artwork; or
- Narrate a scene from the perspective of someone shadowed in the periphery of the artwork
Through Direct Address
- Address the image.
- Make the image speak.
- Speak directly to the artist or the subject(s) of the piece.
- Write a letter from the person in the photo to you (perhaps from your younger self to your current self).
- Write a letter from you to the person in the photo (your current self to your younger self, perhaps).
Through Interrogation (Asking Questions of Someone/Something)
- Of the artist.
- Of the figure/s.
- Of yourself –All ekphrasis is a sort of self-interrogation. Addressing yourself often takes the form of admissions of ignorance or obtuseness in the face of the image or the asking of rhetorical questions and can lead to a deeper understanding of yourself.
Through Giving an Account
- Of your encounter with the photo; of your experience of looking at the art.
- Of a stranger’s encounter with the photo.
- Of others’ (e.g., family members’ or friends’) encounter with the photo.
- Speculate about why the artist created the work.
- Reflect on circumstances under which the work of art was created.
- Reflect on the moment of encounter between writer and artwork.
- Relate the work of art to something else it reminds you of, perhaps in your military experience.
- Imagine what was happening while the artist was creating the piece.
- Speak of the image interpretively.
- Meditate on the moment of viewing the image.
- Respond to the artwork.
- Challenge the claims of the artwork.
- Inhabit the artwork in the lyrical mode.
- Use the artwork as a point of departure into a larger discussion or narrative.