About Seeing and Having Something to Say

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For a non-native writer like me all positive feedback on blog writing feels like fireworks. I feel fortunate that I have such good friends around the world who follow my blog and leave comments on my posts. There are professional writers and native English-speakers who encourage me in my writing and it feels really wonderful to be noticed by people like them. Just recently I was asked to contribute to a blog called ‘Under A Grey Sky‘ and today my first contribution ‘January in Finland‘ has been published there. It’s well worth taking a look at the author list on the About page and reading also other posts on that blog. No grey skies at the moment here though, just for the last days of January we’ve been enjoying glorious sunny weather with fantastic wintry scenes. So, no complaints on my part!

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Originally I started this blog so that I would have a place to show my photos but it has now become more and it makes me really happy because I like writing a lot and I feel the urge to write almost every day. Still, every time it blows me away to see that people show up to read what I’ve written even though I’m not a native English-speaker and definitely not a professional writer. I remember someone (Annie Greenwood?) once told me that writing is not about words, it’s about having something to say, and photography is not about taking photos, it is about seeing (did I get it right Annie?). I find so much to relate to in those phrases. The funny thing in my case is that I write in English, I could never do it in Finnish even though it is my mother tongue, it just does not provide me with tools to be creative, or to put it in another way English is the creative outlet for me, not Finnish. I’ve tried writing in Finnish but I can’t bend the language to fit my purposes so that it would give out the right impression, I quite often feel misunderstood in Finnish or I hear myself sounding too serious and I want there to be more lightness in my writing. I read a lot in Finnish, fiction and non-fiction, and there are many authors I admire and enjoy their writing, especially because I can’t do the same things with my mother tongue than they do.

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Being fluent in many languages gives you the privilege of reading in the original language. I don’t know what it is like to read a Finnish novel in English, but I assume it is not the same thing as to read them in Finnish. When I was studying Nordic Languages at the university we had to read texts in Danish and Norwegian even though we hadn’t studied those languages because it was assumed that those languages are similar to Swedish, and they are. In fact it was a wonderful experience to read a book in Danish and realize that I can understand it. Take for example the book Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne by Peter Hoeg, in its original language the rhythm and the sounds of the language contribute to the story, and even though the people who translate books do a fantastic job, the original work of art is always the best one to read if you have a chance to do it and you understand the language.
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Some weeks ago I participated in a televised Sports Gala and sat next to a gentleman from the US who had just flown in and it was his first visit to Finland. Finnish athletes and their support groups were awarded prizes and there was a fantastic show that was synchronized with a similar gala that was going on in Stockholm at the same time. Explaining to the gentleman next to me who everyone was and what the jokes were about was a fantastic experience for me too. It really make me realize once again how much each culture has embedded in it, and the cross references need a lot of explaining for a foreigner but that is really the only way to learn something about that culture. In that sense it is always a pleasure for me to open up some of our culture to a foreigner and I suppose that is one of the things I try to do in this blog as well.
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I have a few more days left here in Nilsiä and I’m hoping to catch up on my reading and go for a few more adventures in the freezing but beautiful weather. Getting to know new landscapes is fascinating, having the opportunity to get inside them and learn to see how they change is luxury.
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166 thoughts on “About Seeing and Having Something to Say

  1. I always enjoy reading your thoughts on your blog Annika because you write like a poet who thinks not just in words, but in images and emotions. Congratulations on your latest post on ‘Under a Grey Sky”. You have the ability to speak to the heart in any language you choose!

  2. Annika, I know you weren’t looking for compliments but I can’t help it!–your English is fantastic, and I truly imagined you had always been bilingual. Your style and voice as a writer of English goes far beyond proficient; it is pleasing and natural, and you do indeed have something to say! And something to show with your distinctive photography. I am so glad you are writing these more discursive posts as a companion to all you share in your photographic art.

    ~lucy

    1. Oh, thank you so much Lucy!!! Yes, you’re right I definitely wasn’t fishing for compliments, I just wanted to tell everyone how unexpected all this attention is. Your words mean so much to me, I can’t even begin to describe how much. But most importantly they encourage me to write more and post more photos 🙂 Thank you so much!!! Truly grateful for the connection, Lucy! And I will get back to you on the attributions very soon… My teaching job takes so much of me I’ve been enjoying a few days just creating and recharging.

  3. Hi Annika,

    I love what you said about having something to say. I am a writer and a storyteller, but I love photography too. The world is full of stories that only the eye can read, and the most intriguing photos tell stories. Your mastery of English is impressive. I really enjoyed your post, with it wonderful words and pictures and stories!–Naomi

  4. I love Peter Hoeg, I wish I could read his writing in Danish, but it’s just too hard to learn. Love your pics and love this bit about having something to say and seeing. I work with designers and they talk about seeing in a certain way to be able to be a good designer. I still wonder how they see different from me.

  5. Wonderful post and breathtaking photos! I agree very much with what you said about speaking or reading in different languages – sometimes one language lets you express your thoughts so much better than another. And reading a book in its original language or in a translated version is very interesting as you see the distinctions in meanings and expressions. Truly knowing a language isn’t simply about knowing the words and how to put them together, it’s about understanding the subtleties of the language, the play on words, the culture they come from…

    I really enjoyed this post – congrats on a very well deserved freshly pressed!

  6. Your photos are wonderful. It has been over 20 years since I’ve been in Finland and your works bring back so many memories. Thank you.
    I also appreciate the little tidbits of “you” we get with your writing. Keep up the great work.

  7. Beautiful photographs. You did a great job with this post.
    I specially want to mention that part where you wrote, ” it is always a pleasure for me to open up some of our culture to a foreigner and I suppose that is one of the things I try to do in this blog as well.” was really meaningful. Best wishes to you and your blog. You are really doing a great job here.

  8. Wonderful post. Double “like” your photographs. I am fairly new to WP and I beginning to learn what a great place it is to collaborate with other photographers around the world. A bit amazed and overwhelmed with it all to be honest. I look forward to seeing more of your photography and sharing my work with you as well.
    Cheers from Reno Nevada and beautiful Lake Tahoe.
    Sue

  9. That last image is very awesome. I like that there is a nice contrast between just the trees, let alone the rest of the picture. That thick line of fog is pretty great too!

  10. Those really are some of the most lovely photos I’ve ever seen…I’m honestly not just saying that. They really are stunning.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Well deserved! 🙂

  11. You write amazingly well for a non-native English speaker…and you definitely have the talent of SEEING! I love the sparky winter scenes. Enjoyed your post a lot!

  12. Gorgeous photos! Very interesting reading, especially for me, as a Swedish person living in Canada. I’ve often thought about how I’m grateful to the English language that has meant so much to me on so many levels. Only once have I read a Swedish novel that had been translated to English. Usually it’s the other way around. It was a real interesting experience! I read Fröken Smillas känsla för snö in Swedish. I forced myself through it, because I didn’t like it at all. Too long ago to remember why.

    As another non-native English speaker, I would never have suspected that you were not native, had you not said so.

  13. Just a little response to the quote you referred to by Annie Greenwood (possibly…) who told you that writing is not about words, it’s about having something to say, and photography is not about taking photos, it is about seeing. I agree, but I would add that photography is like writing. It, too, is about having something to say. You can make the most beautiful photograph in the world, but if you don’t show yourself as a photographer who wants to tell something with the picture, it will have no meaning to the viewers either. Both writing and photography comes down to what your heart wants to tell. Great post.

  14. Yes you got it right and your words and images speak clear beautiful messages. Having the ability to cross language borders like you can is something I wish I could do! Language and culture are all so intertwined that if you really want to know a people, a place, then being able to understand the language is so very important. And that’s where photography comes into its own. Like music it speaks without words. Thank you for the mention, Annika and wonderful that freshly pressed has taken notice of your extraordinary work 🙂

  15. Until you said it, I didn’t suspect that you weren’t a native speaker of English. You write so eloquently. To me, writing ultimately appeals to the soul and it’s wonderful how words can be made to express so many feelings in so many ways. (Great photos, too!)

  16. Reblogged this on MyDestiny2011 and commented:
    Great photos. I am facing the same phenomenon…I am not great at writing, and sometimes at loss on what to say. Still learning, and all the great bloggs @bloggers gave me an inspirations!. Keep it up. Would like to share this please. Thanks.

  17. I really enjoyed your blog, the art that you have created in your photography. If you’re interested, I recently posted some winter photos as well. Keep it coming! It will inspire me as well. Congrats on your successes and recognitions!

  18. Astonishing color and black and white photos!
    I am a WordPress photoblogger as well, I’m glad I’ve found someone who enjoys photos as much as me 🙂
    Keep blogging!

  19. Amazing photos! Truly beautiful. Love your friend’s quote: writing is not about words, it’s about having something to say, and photography is not about taking photos, it is about seeing. Puts everything in an exciting new context!

  20. I really like the way you perceive knowing foreign language : “being fluent in many languages give you the privilege of reading in the original language” … that something I’ve been felt for but dont know how to describe … i am also starting to write, hope that I could be as great as you! nice day!

  21. I did not start to blog here long ago and I really dreamed of being such a great blogger as you,but I suppose it will take some time.However,you are really a genius at language,you studied a lot of languages except Finnish and English,how did you make it???

  22. very nice photos i never in reality seen snow so seeing your photos is like a watching a very beautiful movie..i am too not a native english speaker an asian(nepali) i try to write and ur a form of encouragement thanq a lot 🙂

  23. Your photos are fantastic! They emptiness of the land coupled with the covering of white fluffy snow makes me feel calm and relaxed! Hopefully you bring a colection of summertime photos once the season comes!

    Good job!

    If it’s alright with you, I started a blog of my own not too long ago and I would like to invite you and your readers to please check out my posts, comment, and subscribe! I would really appreciate any feedback as well as your support by signing up! The link is http://www.logicmeetsreason.wordpress.com Thank you so much!

  24. It was cooly refreshing to enjoy the winter scenes. I live in Minnesota, and we have not had a winter this year. Congrats on being a featured blogger/artist/photographer!!!

  25. ‘Writing is not about words, it’s about having something to say, and photography is not about taking photos, it is about seeing’
    I believe you have the aptitude to see things and have great things to say/share. Your words remind me of a statement I’ve read in a forum, ‘Learning a new language is like living a second life’. Little wonder if you feel the same way :). Your words are just beautiful. All the best!

  26. Thank you so much for your kind words everyone! There are almost 80 comments here, so I won’t write you individual replies but I truly appreciate every single entry. You made my day!!! Thank you WordPress for promoting my piece. I’m truly grateful for all you kind people who read it! I will come back to the comments later and visit your blogs. Thank you ! Enjoy your day!

  27. Really agree about reading in the original language. I’d love to have been able to read Murakami in Japanese, but my language skills don’t stretch that far! I do have the pleasure of reading Isabel Allende in Spanish, though.

  28. Just stumbled on your blog. I am an African woman and married to a Finnish man but currently not living in Finland. Seeing the winter photos really reminded me of my beautiful second home, Finland. Beautiful, beautiful country and equally beautiful people.

  29. “I read a lot in Finnish, fiction and non-fiction, and there are many authors I admire and enjoy their writing, especially because I can’t do the same things with my mother tongue than they do.” ,

    I usually feels the same in my case 🙂

    And thank you so much for this wonderful post

  30. I also felt how you feel. It’s such a good thing to know that other people’s appreciating your thoughts and ideas. I also started blogging due to curiosity, I just wanted to post pictures and stuffs but then I saw the essence of writing through other people and until now like you is learning.

  31. What a beautiful place! You have really made some magical looking photos and I feel like I’d like to step inside them and see and experience the landscape myself!

    Snow is beautiful in the right context i.e. when you are not stuck somewhere in it without any gloves or woolly hat! Or when kids throw snowballs at you!

  32. You write very well in english. I know what you mean when you say that you can not write in your mother tongue. It took me a long time too open up but writing about my past helps me a lot.
    Very nice pictures too, I’ll be back !

  33. I really like this blog … your photos definitely captured the eye & you write just fine, so great job there! I couldn’t help but to repeat this…I really like these photos they bring me so much inner peace…

  34. I am currently living in Southern California and your photos made me long for home in Ohio. I grew up with frost bitten fingers and snow covered wonder lands. Thank you seeing something in the world and sharing it with us. Your writing is extremely easy to read and I would never have noticed it was not your native tongue. Great work.

  35. It is a good blog.
    Submit it for “Blogomania : The Bloggers’ Paradise” and you may win cash prizes along with a chance to get it published in impulse magazine.

  36. I enjoy your writing style! Your insight is spectacular.

    Writing and photography go hand-in-hand are are the perfect creative avenues to express yourself. Good to know there are deep people like you out there:)

  37. I like the phrase “writing is not about words, is about having something to say” also I share you the concern about the “language” that you write with.

    of course translated text is not as genuine as the original. however its an appreciated advantage that we can now read for people that we don’t speak their languages. for example personally I enjoyed the most to-Arabic translated novels by gabriel garcia marquez.

    Good luck

  38. Your photos are simply magical! For a person who lives in the tropics, your picture are just divine! Even made me touch my computer’s screen. And the way you write…It’s clean and easy to read…

  39. I loved these pictures.
    The last one, specially… It looks like a pencil draw and has a magical atmosphere… Beautiful!

  40. your photos are breathtaking and obviously your writing comes from your heart enjoyed reading and viewing your blog.

  41. Very interesting that you find it *easier* to say what you want in English than in your first language. I’ve heard that English is very difficult to learn because there are too many words for the same thing and some screwball words that sound the same but have different meanings!! Two, too, to…. Not knowing a word of Finnish beyond the names of a few NHL players, I have to wonder if Finnish is too much the other way (not enough ways to say the same thing) or if English causes you to think a little outside of the box because it’s *not* your first language. Whatever the case, it’s an intriguing comment.

  42. Your English is perfect 🙂 I understand what you mean about being able to express yourself differently in other languages – I find poetry much easier to write in Spanish, probably because it is inherently so much more rhythmical than English. I also agree with what you say about getting the true essence of a work when you read it in its original language. Different translations can also shed different light on a work though – you should read what Jorge Luis Borges has to say about the art of translation.

    As for the photos, beautiful 🙂 I wish it would snow like that in Scotland this winter!

  43. Congratulations! You are a wonderful writer and talented photographer! I feel the same way — I am not much of a writer because I mainly do more scientific writing. For me, writing my blog in a “non-scientific” language is a constant challenge…but a challenge that I welcome and enjoy!

  44. Hi Everyone! Thank you so much for the kind words! There are more than 40 new comments here and I appreciate every single one of them! I look into your blogs and comment accordingly. Thank you so much for stopping by!!!

  45. I have a minor in Spanish, although I would not consider myself fluent at all. I am much better at reading and writing in Spanish than I am at speaking. I took a class in college where we had to read Spanish works from around the time of Christopher Columbus discovering the New World. It was difficult, but fascinating. Keep up the good work! You would never know English to be your second language!!!

  46. Those are some beautiful shots. Hopefully I’ll be able to match them someday and my own photoblog will see such applause.

    Till then, awesome work to you!

    Just remembered, DAD I want the DSLR already!

  47. I don’t know how to explain it but your writing in English as a second language (but your first creative language) seems to make what your saying flow in a very “story like” and interesting way …. full of detail …

  48. These photos are absolutely beautiful. The snow is so delicate and the blue sky! I love them a lot! Makes me wish even more deeply we could’ve had snow here in NC this year. Beautiful photos.

  49. umm i see. I never see from the angle. Its interesting. I like snow but to see by photographers taken, its more make me interested and love it !

  50. your posts are nice to read and very English 🙂 i enjoy what you have to say and what i have to see,, but i kind of would not believe that these photos are real.. they are soooo beautiful scenes… congratulations on being freshly pressed!

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