In Wim Wenders’ Room 666, he films a monologue by his friend Werner Herzog at the top of Tokyo Tower:
There are few images to be found. One has to dig for them like an archaeologist. One has to search through this ravaged landscape to find anything at all… I see so few people today who dare to address our lack of adequate images. We absolutely need images in tune with our civilization, images that resonate with what is deepest within us…
I’ve thought about Herzog’s words a lot in the past year. I’m always searching for images for my work, but also for my life. Looking for portraits of life outside of a default setting.
To have an imagination is simply to have the ability to make images that are not directly in front of you. When I hear people describe depression, it often sounds like the imagination shuts down— the brain just can’t make a picture of tomorrow that’s worth living for. That’s certainly what my own mild bouts of melancholy feel like: There’s just no image to hang on to, no picture I can make in my head of how life could be better.
Of course, the imagination needs to be fed. To make better images, you need to see better images.
Ursula K. Le Guin spoke beautifully of this need in her 2014 acceptance speech:
I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality…. Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.
Images matter. The images we hold in our mind are often the images that come true for us. When some warmongering asshole gets put in a position of power and people (even jokingly) tweet things like “we’re all going to die” (well, duh, that’s alwyas been true) we’re making bad images. So if we are to survive, we need to create and capture and share better images.