Whenever I go to a charity shop, I look out for old penny photos.
I love being able to peer into another’s life and create a story about them. When I find the right one, I begin imagining who they were, the life they lead, the good and bad times they had. Finding comfort in strangers and knowing we have all lived through so many of our own stories.
Coming up with an idea can be difficult. And the trajectory of your story, even harder. This is why I enjoy writing from image. You have a base to start from, and thereafter lays your creative freedom.
In terms of where you source them from, ideally there's a weekend market nearby, charity shops and other likely places where you can buy sentimental junk. Another's persons trash is another persons treasure.
On a recent trip away, I went to a flea market and found this gem.
As with all draft writing, it needs work and the story is not complete, but I am sharing the beginning with you so you get a sense of how I engaged with the image.
Miguel’s was closed for the night. Tony, his brother Ralph, Uncle Frank and his son, Robert, all took up the centre of the room. Their round table was spilling with plates and glasses. Rumpled handkerchiefs sat like collapsed meringues. Remnants of sauce blotched plates and little fish bones sat naked and exposed on smaller plates. Their starter was starved of conversation. Ralph attempted to crack a joke about an accident he had seen on the way up, but it failed to rouse much of a response. Robert sipped on his wine more than he spoke. Frank asked about family members, where everyone replied almost automatically, but vaguely. Tony talked about his business achievements in a grandiose manner, dressing his stories that by the end, any achievement was near impossible to retrace. Cigarette smoke obliterated them briefly now and again, like passing clouds.
Miguel’s didn’t immediately seem like a restaurant. It was like someone’s dining room, perhaps more so because of the intimacy of the men circled together. White netted curtains hung from the small windows, their frayed ends showing their age. An extensive painting, the backdrop to Tony’s large figure, hung expansively behind him. Large abstract shapes loomed at the eye in muted colours. Frank, who had been frequenting Miguel’s for twenty years, never failed to comment on his dislike of it. He found irritation with the shapes resembling fruit, but not being presented as fruit. Uncertainty irked him. Bulky wooden chairs framed the table, holding them all. The armrests served as pragmatism to their conversation. Leaned onto with contemplativeness, gripped onto in fiery disagreement, smacked in zestful laughter, tapped in dubiousness. Rings reverberated a tinny sound when some sort of revelatory comment struck them, causing chipped marks on the wood.
It was a twisting effort to gather the four this evening. It had taken a forged doctor’s note, a stolen car, deceived children, and a borrowed suit with borrowed money. This was the reconciliation the Silva family needed. Conversations started out as brief comments swapped around. Gentle nods, small up-curved lips, short grumbles in agreement, thin chortles, and finally, eye contact that held some steadiness.
What images will you find to be the prompt for your own writing?