A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

At our residence dinner table, the conversation ranged far and wide. Trying to make her point one of the ladies exclaimed, “Well, you know, a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Our conversation dissolved into laughter. The attention switched immediately from the subject under discussion, to the saying used.  

“Does anyone know where that saying came from?”

“Sounds like it’s very old.”

“Surely someone must know? I’ve heard that it comes from the Orient.”

Volunteering to undertake the search, I returned to my suite and, what else, turned to Google. The results were surprising. The saying is not old. No one knows who first used it. It appeared in American newspapers sometime in the late 1800s and early 1900s. While the original author is unknown, it is generally agreed that the saying is American. As I concluded my research, I mused that although it’s overworked, this cliché captures a truth: Sometimes one picture conveys a meaning better than many words can.

It was a short jump for me from there to thinking about prehistoric and early historic people: Groups that didn’t have written language. For them, pictures were the only means available for recording events and for describing the world they lived in. I thought about the cave art of Chauvet, France, and the pictographs in Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta. Why did people so diverse want to do this? I can only surmise, but a reasonable guess is a desire to pass something on to succeeding generations.

I realized that I have the same desire: It’s part of why I write. But I also realized that I had never thought about other ways to communicate my ideas. I came away wondering what I would do if all I had were pictures. How would I document my life and, simultaneously, communicate what I think is important?

So I decided to give it a try, picking just a few things—my appreciation for my family, past and present; my experience of the power of optimism to make my life fun and worth living; and my belief in the importance of listening to others.

Appreciating Family


Having Fun

1970 c ASG & MMG Doodlebug event


mmg, doris 2


Do these pictures convey my meaning? Maybe, maybe not. But trying it has helped me realize another important belief for me: I should never be afraid to try. I’d like to think that those ancient cave-artists would understand.



Filed under This & That

13 Responses to A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

  1. Eveline Goodall

    The pictures speak words Marjorie. Thanks

    • Marjorie

      Eveline – It was certainly an essay which brought back many memories for me. Fortunately Isabel was visiting me, and inserted the pictures. That is beyond my skills yet, and is something I must learn. She also is my official editor, someone from whom any writer can benefit.

      • Wonderful post. Wonder what photos young people will have to show (besides selfies) in their old age? If the technology lasts.

        • Marjorie

          Barbara – Yes – the memories it called back for me, you can imagine – my parents – Sheldon and I as young people, and on it went. I share your wondering if the photos-one-can-hold will disappear! It will be a real loss if that happens. Of course the other side of the coin is that being able to snap pictures with your phone, iPad or even a watch, much more will be photographed (and that has its hazards as well.)

  2. Norma Wheeler

    Thank you Marjorie;
    What a great idea. Thank you for continuing to teach me even from a distance. Love Norma

    • Marjorie

      Norma – thank you for responding to the latest blog. It makes the miles drop away to hear from old friends. So nice to keep in touch this way, now that traveling is more difficult. More blogs brewing!

    • Marjorie

      Thanks Mary and Ralph! The memories those pictures stir up. Some of the pictures you will remember, Ralph – but not all of them.

  3. Liz Koerner

    Well done Marjorie. Another lovely post with much to ponder.

    • Marjorie

      This was interesting, and fun, to write. Glad you like it, Liz. Given the beautiful pictures you create, it is almost a given that a post with pictures would catch your attention. See you in church.

  4. you’ve hit another nerve marjorie,
    and triggered a lot of remembering.
    and sent me also a-googling.
    with the usual variety and serendipity

    1 picture of 1000 instances of the word “word”

    the ’60’s song “if a picture paints 1000 words then why can’t i paint you”

    a missionaries song “1000 words” about finding 1000 words in the eyes of Zambian children

    weird and modern – a haunting love song “1000 words” sung by the heroine in a Japanese virtual world game “final fantasy 2”
    (in a new art form called anime).
    and a part of the fine arts background of this work

    and a sweet little TEDx talk by 12 year old Marshall Neve about the merits of photography, “A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words”


  5. another note marjorie, on your theme of photos that tell stories.
    my current project is editing the pictures of our stdavids travellers group recently back from their 14 day tour of israel/jordan. 12 thousand pics from 17 cameras! but since bonnae and i couldn’t join them for medical reasons, i’m really enjoying the selecting and editing, because it’s letting me see what i would have seen if we had been with our friends. a virtual trip if you will. it’s also interesting to see how together they saw much more than any one of them saw.

    • Marjorie

      Jock – Thank you for both of your emails. I was fortunate to have Isabel’s help to include pictures, and I enjoyed doing that blog. As for your current project of selecting and editing the St. David’s people of their trip — that’s right down your line. Have fun.