"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..."
Although Paul Stubbs' photo doesn't portray the two roads cited in Robert Frost's well-known poem "The Road Not Taken," it certainly does trigger similar responses.
Bordered by a lone tree and a collection of greenery, more than a dozen stone steps wind upward until they seem to end in the darkness. What will a visitor to the scene find at the end of the steps? A cave? A meadow? A forest populated by trees that have grown for many years?
What is the mood engendered by the contrast between the light and dark areas of the photograph? What would you be thinking as you climb the steps? Would you be fearful? Unconcerned? Would you be eager to discover what you'll discover at the top of the stairs? Or would you decide to turn back rather than to continue into the unknown?
These are but a few of the questions that can help to stimulate creative writing, whether it be in or out of the classroom. There's no doubt that this photo and others like it can easily inspire writers of all ages to create not only personal responses, but also poems, short stories, or essays.
Many thanks to Paul Stubbs, a North Carolina based photographer and member of Carolina's Nature Photographers Association. Stubbs' specialty is landscapes, nature, and wildlife. "When I saw the steps," he writes, "I thought they would make an interesting image. I looked at the stone the steps were made of and wondered how old they were. I wondered what it would have been like to be at the steps many years ago."
To see more of Stubbs' work, visit www.cnpa.org and search for Paul Stubbs at "Member Galleries." You'll also find Stubbs' photographs by searching for Paul Stubbs at www.betterphoto.com. And if you'd like to see a black and white version of the photo shown above, contact me at hankpix (at) gmail (dot) com.
How Other Teachers Use Photos To Inspire Writing
In a review of Write What You See in Voices of Youth Advocate, August, 2009, Joyce Doyle wrote: "Possibly the most helpful feature is a special section in the back of the book where high school and college teachers show how they have helped to inspire creative writing through the use of photos."
Here's an example from the book. Justin Van Kleeck's very successful writing activity with students he tutors involves showing them a photo of a baby macaque and a pigeon who had "adopted" each other as friends.
"I ask my students to freewrite after showing them the photo and giving them information about the background story of how the animals came together, "he writes. A former adjunct assistant professor of English at Piedmont Virginia Community College, Van Kleeck then allows his students to write about "...anything in the picture that interests them, from how different species can get along so easily while humans cannot, to the human behaviors that stress animals, such as poaching."
He also shows his students a video of a seagull that steals a bag of Doritos from a store in Scotland every day. In the first part of the assignment, he directs the students to write a process paper in which they instruct their fellow students how to steal, open and eat the Doritos.
In the second part of the assignment, he tells the students to write from the point of view of a shopkeeper who is telling other shopkeepers how to prevent the seagull from stealing Doritos in a creative, nonviolent way. "The key to the exercise," concludes Van Kleeck, " is for students to utilize the process approach while also employing their imaginations. They should be encouraged to create easy to follow, step-by-step instructions without skimping on style."
For more interesting ways to use photos to inspire writing, read my series of ten articles on photo writing at www.creativity-portal.com/prompts/kellner. And to discover what Gavin Tachibana wrote about using photos to inspire writing, visit the National Writing Project at www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/3125.
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Use These Photos in Your Classroom
To discover a sampling of color and black and white photos you can use in your classroom, visit photobucket.com/hankpix. Click on "All Albums" to see the photos. Right click on any photo to download it.
Irises in a Garden of Dreams by Molly Anderson-Childers
Student Photo Contest by Stephanie Smith Ph.D
The Bucket and the Flag
And much, much more!