The most succinct of flash fictions is attributed to Hemingway:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn

The master of omission was purported to have jotted this down on a piece of napkin on a bet of who can write a short story in six words. The spareness of the prose has the startling emotional resonance of a photograph. The image of the shoes, apparently from a dead child, lingers in the mind.

Vivian Maier, Self Portrait (Shoe), July 1956
Vivian Maier, Self Portrait (Shoe), July 1956

Street photography in turn foreground the textual nature of the photograph. The shoe, the shadow, and the stroller in Vivian Maier’s photo invoke possible stories around them. We tend to fill in what is outside the frame of view.

The shoe by itself, removed and on its side, is a disturbing image. Is it a crime scene? Is the child on the stroller possibly orphaned?

Christopher Isherwood said of himself:

I am a camera with its shutter open…

The writer is not only flâneur, but his photographic apparatus, receptive to whatever stories passing images present. And flash fiction is the flâneur’s genre. 

Here, words and pictures go hand in hand. Street photography explores the novelistic in the photograph; flash fiction refines the narrative to a photographic form.


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