Whats in an image?


Reading between the lines © John MacPherson
Reading between the lines © John MacPherson

It’s always heartening to find that an image you posted with a clear intent to communicate a specific mood or emotion actually hit the spot.

I put up a link to Owen Jones excellent piece on suicide, published in the The Independent, some weeks ago, in my post The Meaning of Life.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the image I used to illustrate my post had been featured on a blog managed by the multimedia students of The University of Southern Mississippi.

However what was really satisfying was the very forthright comment from poster Jamie:

One powerful picture. One lost life.

In an article I read recently the story was startling, and held my attention well enough, but it was the picture that stuck with me.

Initially I all but ignored the picture, scrolling past it to the text. But as I read the text my brain began to make sense of the picture which accompanied it. The text dealt with a man named Owen Jones who was talking about his experience of being on  a train when it collided with a suicide victim, and the impact it had on himself and everyone else on the train. He talks about the importance of those in positions of power to share their own experiences with depression, to make it more acceptable for people to come forward when they similarly struggle. He calls for change saying:

“I don’t know whose life ended under the train I was on, and neither do I know the circumstances that drove them there. I do know that, unless we address the stigma, the ever-declining support, the economic causes, and the sheer lack of voice, many more will take that last, lonely journey.”

The picture then became riveting then in its stark contrast and I could make out the figure of a train rounding a bend coming down the tracks. It was a tragic symbol, yes, of the suicide this man had experienced. However it was also a symbol of hope and the ever moving forward nature of life.


John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

More articles from John Macpherson