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Thread: words vs. pictures

  1. #1
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    words vs. pictures

    i feel temporarly stymied, tired of pictures, unable to even lift a camera. has this happened to anyone else? after seven years of obsessing, taking and viewing photographs every day, reading photo magazines and post-processing books, i suddenly feel the need of other words: poems, memoirs, novels. sitting on the church steps of chichicastegnano, guatemala, years ago, i remember watching tourists arrive and mixing with the indian market people, thinking, 'pictures cannot tell the story. it needs words.' of course, i took pictures and did my best, but the diary might have served me better.

    http://www.enjoyguatemala.com/chichicastenango.htm

    best,
    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp

  2. #2
    Senior Member Tim's Avatar
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    Quote Originally Posted by smokysun View Post
    i feel temporarly stymied, tired of pictures, unable to even lift a camera. has this happened to anyone else? after seven years of obsessing, taking and viewing photographs every day, reading photo magazines and post-processing books, i suddenly feel the need of other words: poems, memoirs, novels. sitting on the church steps of chichicastegnano, guatemala, years ago, i remember watching tourists arrive and mixing with the indian market people, thinking, 'pictures cannot tell the story. it needs words.' of course, i took pictures and did my best, but the diary might have served me better.

    http://www.enjoyguatemala.com/chichicastenango.htm

    best,
    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp
    IMHO writing adds to the image - or even vise-versa. A carefully selected title or text about the image turns it from just a picture to a narrative. Over on the Ricoh forum a member posted an image of a homeless guy. Unless he had told me that in the writing or title I would not have known or even guessed it. For all I knew otherwise it was an image of a friend or family member which it turned out it was not.

    I have other interests and a family member writes more than he takes pictures so I think, sure expand your interests. It may help your photo creativity too.

    Yes sometimes my creativity wanes and I just dont have time to see images but maybe just rest a while.

    Just my 0.02 cents worth.

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    Re: words vs. pictures

    thanks, tim,
    this is one thing we really haven't discussed. giving a photo a title warms it up. leaving it merely 'untitled' seems to betray a lack of interest. the title can completely alter the meaning/attention for the viewer. a case in point is the mexican photographer manual alvarez bravo who changed the names of some of his most famous photos over the years, as they developed a different meaning for him. this is a wonderful book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Manuel-Alvarez...5305609&sr=8-1

    the story of weston, bravo, and modotti is one of the most famous in photography, worth noting. your point very much appreciated.

    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp

    "Point to the mystery. Don't define it."

    ps. an example. to call this 'untitled' or 'grandmother's house 1913' (which is was) makes for a different emotional charge.
    Last edited by smokysun; 22nd February 2009 at 17:16.

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    Re: words vs. pictures

    Wayne, Tim, you are both spot on.
    If one does not care to title an image, then how are we as viewers supposed to care?

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    Subscriber Member TRSmith's Avatar
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    I find myself in a slightly different camp. Title or not, I don't mind. In fact, I find other people's images often sponsor terrific little narratives in my head. I like the freedom of filling in the blanks and making up the story to fit my own warped sense of reality. A portion of the fun for me is that once the photographer publishes the image, I get to take ownership of at least part of it in my imagination. When someone puts a title on a photo, I feel bound by it. It forces me to think the way they want me to think. I hate that.

    And speaking of words and pictures, I have recently been imagining elaborate story lines to accompany some of the threads on this forum. For instance, the thread started by KevinParis ("We don't need no stinkin' G1 something or other...")has me mentally writing a storyboard for a film a la 007/Ian Fleming. The thread's characters, settings, fast cars, "henchmen" smoking in cafes, etc. seem to lend themselves to a "plot" with overtones of exotic locales and international intrigue.

    Maybe I'm more comfortable in a fantasy world. Photography certainly has the capability to supply endless doses of reality, but I think it's so much more fun to spin an alternate world and use the images as key frames in the storytelling.

  6. #6
    Oxide Blu
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    Quote Originally Posted by Lili View Post
    ... If one does not care to title an image, then how are we as viewers supposed to care?
    Every heard of Playboy magazine?

  7. #7
    Oxide Blu
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    Quote Originally Posted by smokysun View Post
    ... an example. to call this 'untitled' or 'grandmother's house 1913' (which is was) makes for a different emotional charge.

    Now choosing between these two titles; 'Crappy Photo of a Yellow House' and 'Great Photo of a Yellow House'. Either can be spot on accurate, but neither help the viewing experience. At least not for me.

    Sometimes, not always, but sometimes titles impress me more as an extension of the photographer's vanity that does nothing to enhance the viewing experience, and perhaps takes away from it. I noticed I only look at the titles of images that interest me, mostly as a reference to locate the image again at a future time.

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    Member Rick Waldroup's Avatar
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    The titles for my photos are pretty much cut and dried- usually the place where it was shot and the date. Sometimes I might title a photo if it is very apparent that is what the title should be. If that makes any sense.

    Sometimes, but not very often, I may caption a photo if the shot needs explaining. And then, other times, I may write several paragraphs based on the photo- but that is rare.

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    Re: words vs. pictures

    Perhaps my initial statement was too harsh.
    Images don't need titles, like a mirror they evoke a response from the viewer.
    If the artist wants to influence that response, to reflect more closely their own feelings, then a title and/or text can be useful.
    Neither path is 'better' per se. Just different.

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    Re: words vs. pictures

    grandmother's eyes looking for her lover - 1913
    Last edited by smokysun; 3rd April 2009 at 22:41.

  11. #11
    Member Rick Waldroup's Avatar
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    See, now to me, Wayne, this type of title has absolutely no meaning except to the photographer. I would never associate this shot with that title. So, I would never title a shot like this. But that is just me.....

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    Re: words vs. pictures

    I come from a different school...old school at that...actually, really old school....

    A title that is descriptive in any way is a link to a 3 dimensional reality and therefore collides with the photograph.....keeping it from being seen as it's own separate reality....

    Photographers that subscribe to this method of thought normally would title an image such as but not limited to...

    date.....location...frame/file number...untitled, etc

    The idea is that the image will explain itself to the individual viewer without so many preconceptions.....

    you are now returned to the regular conversation....
    shooter..out

  13. #13
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    ah, the original question! what can words show that photos can't?

    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp

  14. #14
    nei1
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    Wayne,I think youre statement possibly needs a caption.1 word against an image ,possibly the image; words against 1 image,the words win every time,words against a number of images should or could be a draw....all the best,Neil.
    Last edited by nei1; 22nd February 2009 at 21:20.

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    Re: words vs. pictures

    hi neil,
    that goes to the heart of the matter. i remember when advertising discovered a block of text more powerful than merely a picture (70's?) and earlier life magazine always sought the balance. doesn't it seem like an image photo alone makes a general statement: sunset, ocean, person? that feeds the imagination, not specific knowledge?
    and ultimately the images of cartier-bresson stick in the mind, not simply because of their geometry but because usually there's an implied dialogue: between things, between people, between people and things. between the subject and the photographer. you can hear the voices, or the silence.
    eric saloman, the political photo-journalist of the twenties and thirties might be another with this talent.
    it's very rare (for me) that a photo alone has the power of a poem. yet it took me months to learn the language of poetry before i could be affected by it. and only a few poems and poets do so.
    thanks,
    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp

    Going Blind by Rainer Maria Rilke

    She sat just like the others at the table.
    But on second glance, she seemed to hold her cup
    a little differently as she picked it up.
    She smiled once. It was almost painful.

    And when they finished and it was time to stand
    and slowly, as chance selected them, they left
    and moved through many rooms (they talked and laughed),
    I saw her. She was moving far behind

    the others, absorbed, like someone who will soon
    have to sing before a large assembly;
    upon her eyes, which were radiant with joy,
    light played as on the surface of a pool.

    She followed slowly, taking a long time,
    as though there were some obstacle in the way;
    and yet: as though, once it was overcome,
    she would be beyond all walking, and would fly.


    ps. would this picture have the same power without the caption:

    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/...execution.html
    Last edited by smokysun; 23rd February 2009 at 01:00.

  16. #16
    Oxide Blu
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    Quote Originally Posted by nei1 View Post
    ... 1 word against an image ,possibly the image; words against 1 image,the words win every time,words against a number of images should or could be a draw...

    Once you get to thinking outside of the box you also have the word or words as the image.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Tim's Avatar
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    Quote Originally Posted by Lili View Post
    Images don't need titles, like a mirror they evoke a response from the viewer.
    If the artist wants to influence that response, to reflect more closely their own feelings, then a title and/or text can be useful.
    Neither path is 'better' per se. Just different.
    Lili, I can agree with this, "If the artist want to influence" so there is no right or wrong here IMHO too. An artist can title and narrate if the artist wants to but I can agree that if an artist can also leave an image to speak by itself.

    "images dont need titles" but can have them, seems to me to be no right or wrong answer here.

  18. #18
    nei1
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    BY ITALO CALVINO..............Antonino sank into deep depression. He began to keep a diary—a photographic diary, of course. With the camera slung around his neck, shut up in the house, slumped in an armchair, he compulsively snapped pictures as he stared into the void. He was photographing the absence of Bice.

    He collected the photographs in an album: you could see ashtrays brimming with cigarette butts, an unmade bed, a damp stain on the wall. He got the idea of composing a catalogue of everything in the world that resists photography, that is systematically omitted from the visual field not only by camera but also by human beings. On every subject he spent days, using up whole rolls at intervals of hours, so as to follow the changes of light and shadow. One day he became obsessed with a completely empty corner of the room, containing a radiator pipe and nothing else: he was tempted to go on photographing that spot and only that till the end of his days.

    The apartment was completely neglected; old newspapers, letters lay crumpled on the floor, and he photographed them. The photographs in the papers were photographed as well, and an indirect bond was established between his lens and that of distant news photographers. To produce those black spots the lenses of other cameras had been aimed at police assaults, charred automobiles, running athletes, ministers, defendants.

    Antonino now felt a special pleasure in portraying domestic objects framed by a mosaic of telephotos, violent patches of ink on white sheets. From his immobility he was surprised to find he envied the life of the news photographer, who moves following the movements of crowds, bloodshed, tears, feasts, crime, the conventions of fashion, the falsity of official ceremonies; the news photographer, who documents the extremes of society, the richest and the poorest, the exceptional moments that are nevertheless produced at every moment and in every place.

    Does this mean that only the exceptional condition has a meaning? Antonino asked himself. Is the news photographer the true antagonist of the Sunday photographer? Are their worlds mutually exclusive? Or does the one give meaning to the other?

    Reflecting like this, he began to tear up the photographs with Bice or without Bice that had accumulated during the months of his passion, ripping to pieces the strips of proofs hung on the walls, snipping up the celluloid of the negatives, jabbing the slides, and piling the remains of this methodical destruction on newspapers spread out on the floor.

    Perhaps true, total photography, he thought, is a pile of fragments of private images, against the creased background of massacres and coronations.

    He folded the corners of the newspapers into a huge bundle to be thrown into the trash, but first he wanted to photograph it. He arranged the edges so that you could clearly see two halves of photographs from different newspapers that in the bundle happened, by chance, to fit together. In fact he reopened the package a little so that a bit of shiny pasteboard would stick out, the fragment of a torn enlargement. He turned on a spotlight; he wanted it to be possible to recognize in his photograph the half-crumpled and torn images, and at the same time to feel their unreality as casual, inky shadows, and also at the same time their concreteness as objects charged with meaning, the strength with which they clung to the attention that tried to drive them away.

    To get all this into one photograph he had to acquire an extraordinary technical skill, but only then would Antonino quit taking pictures. Having exhausted every possibility, at the moment when he was coming full circle Antonino realized that photographing photographs was the only course that he had left—or, rather, the true course he had obscurely been seeking all this time.
    from The Adventure of a Photographer by Italo Calvino

  19. #19
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    brilliant, neil. just the way i've been feeling. until this evening and coming out of it!
    thanks,
    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp

    ps. i'll find the rest of the story. here it is.

    http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/calvino...tographer.html
    Last edited by smokysun; 23rd February 2009 at 21:05.

  20. #20
    nei1
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    Wonderful isnt it,I couldnt find a way to post it all,glad you found it........Neil.

  21. #21
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    Re: words vs. pictures

    thanks, neil. i think this story absolutely crucial.

    the real problem of the creative person is not technique or instrument (both of those can be quantified and are therefore attractive and seductive).

    what a person needs is a subject matter that resonates within them. eli weisel and the holocaust, aa milne and pooh, dostoyevsky and the house of the dead.

    one photojournalist says he never takes a picture unless he sees the caption at the same time.

    unless you find something that calls forth your wit (elliot erwitt), your ego (klein), or your poetics (alvarez bravo), the work sinks into the sea of billions of photographs.

    a writer friend and i looked at the bravo book this morning. she pointed how each two pictures were picked to reinforce each other (great editing).

    http://www.amazon.com/Manuel-Alvarez...5528962&sr=8-1

    then she said, the problem is everything has been done. unless you were the first...

    i thought of brassai and night-time paris and graffiti.

    edward weston and peppers.

    i don't think that stops us if peppers, graffiti, or night-time paris resonate within us enough. and enough seems to me the key word.

    still stymied, but nobody can take pictures of me like i do!

    best,
    wayne
    www.pbase.com/wwp

    dp1
    Last edited by smokysun; 3rd April 2009 at 22:41.

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