Learning Commons #haikuphoto Challenge

Article by Sue Jenkins, Clinical Assistant Professor of Art

If you love poetry, photography and instagram, you’ll love taking part in the first ever Learning Commons Haikuphoto Challenge where students, faculty, staff, and the greater Marywood Community are encouraged to share their poems and images celebrating the Marywood experience. Before I tell you how to participate, though, I want to share a little about the creative side of writing poetry and making images.

On Poetry and Imagery: Haiku and Photography

As a designer and fine art photographer, I’d like to suggest that Haiku and Photography are both forms of poetry. Haiku, if you’ve forgotten exactly what it is or have never heard of it, is a type of traditional Japanese poem that consists of three lines with 5, 7, and 5 syllables each, in that order. Unlike regular poems, haiku forces the writer to condense ideas into their purest form.

Here’s an example of a famous haiku. Count the syllables as you read each line:

First autumn morning
the mirror I stare into
shows my father’s face.

– Murakami Kijo

As you read each line, a picture emerges in your mind, and as you reach the final word, the picture becomes clear, as if it were a photograph you could hold in your hands—or view on your smartphone.

With the popularity of social media sites like Instagram and Facebook, where users share images with astounding frequency, I think there has been a recent positive cultural shift in what constitutes a good photograph. In the past, the average person would take a snapshot without regard to composition, light, color, or any other formal element. Today, by contrast, these aesthetic choices are embedded directly into image making and image sharing processes. For instance, on Instagram users must only use a square format instead of portrait or landscape, which forces the image inside an even 9-slice grid. Users are also presented with options to scale, crop, apply a filter (Mayfair, LoFi, Hefe), and manually adjust image qualities like brightness, contrast, saturation, shadows, and highlights. The results—with minimal effort—can be downright stunning!

Now, I have a question for you. What happens if we combine the sense of beauty that constrains the haiku poem and marry it with the visual impact and storytelling qualities of a photograph? Well, we get the #haikuphoto

5linepoem by Sue Jenkins

water-poem-VI by Sue Jenkinswater-poem-IX by Sue Jenkins

In exploring this concept on my own while pursuing my MFA in photography, I decided to create photographic poems. I called my multipart photos Quatrains (four images) and Quintains (five images) after the terms used for poems. Here are some examples of my work from a series that focuses on water, motion, and respite.

Since that time, I’ve become more intrigued by the idea of photographic storytelling that captures the poetry of a moment in a single narrative image. I’ve also been dabbling with the idea of writing haiku for each poetic image I share on social media. Here’s some examples of my recent #haikiphotos

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Now it’s your turn! I cordially invite you to take the Learning Commons #haikuphoto Challenge

Here’s how you’ll do it:

  1. Capture a photo that tells a Marywood story either inside the Learning Commons or somewhere else on campus. Or, use a photo you had already taken.
  2. Write a haiku for it.
  3. Share your haikuphoto(s) on your Instagram feed with the hashtags #haikuphoto and #learningcommons and include your haiku poem as your photo’s description.
    NOTE: If you don’t use Instagram please submit your #haikuphoto by posting on the Learning Commons Facebook page.
  4. Submit as many images as you like. The more the merrier!
    Here’s an example of how it might look on Instagram:#haikuphoto by Sue Jenkins

In honor of National Poetry Month the ‪#‎haikuphoto‬ submission period is now open for the entire month of April. Then, in May, we’ll share the best #haikuphotos here on the Learning Commons blog.

Ready, set, go!

Got questions? Write Sue Jenkins at suejenkins@marywood.edu