Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: When Fiction Meets Photography

Sergey Shinderman© 
Not long ago I wrote a short story about a pair of highrise window cleaners—two men who climb breathtaking heights in flimsy safety gear to make skylines shine. My friend and photographer Sergey Shinderman read it and took this rare photo from his office window in Jersey City, NJ.

It’s tempting to think that my story inspired the image. But looking at it I realize that the magic it seized needs no purview of my writing. Its artistic sovereignty is in the face of a man suspended at an acrophobic altitude; the way his squeegee animates stillness; the vaunted axis of One World Trade Center made visible by his labor.

But something unmistakable does happen at the junction of fiction and photography. For instance, one of my goals in writing the story was to pick at the glass veneer of modern New York skyscrapers—to expose the high, often heroic cost of keeping up their beauty. I wanted to tell the story of men who risk their lives so that the rest of us can continue to fall in love with what F. Scott Fitzgerald described as “the city always seen for the first time.” But even as I imagined the worst of this daring work I put my fictional characters in an elevated scaffold, not an exposed strap-harness from which a real window cleaner hangs in this photo.

I wouldn't redact my fiction to accommodate reality. But I am endlessly fascinated by the discoveries made when visual and linguistic forms entwine in search of meaning.

Check out more of Sergey’s photography on www.oneframepermoment.com.


  1. This photo is a perfect accompaniment to your riveting story, which is one of the more memorable of any I have read. You should put a link to it in this post.

  2. Thank you, Mathew. Knowing you enjoyed it means a lot to me. I don't upload the story because I've been told it might count as 'publishing,' which could hurt my chances at having it picked up by a literary journal.

  3. It's been my understanding publishing on a blog doesn't count. You might consider entering it in a Glimmer Train contest. They hold them constantly and pay cash prizes, as well as publishing winners in their quarterly mag.

  4. That's a good idea, Mathew. I'll do just that :)