Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Reel Obsession/DO NOT TAKE WOOD

Naugatuck (Union City), Connecticut

There seems to be a shared critical opinion, maybe something like a meme, claiming that photographs  shouldn't include text because, I don't know, visual art, or something. Bits of text are a universal part of our surroundings unless we're really deep in the woods or way out in the desert. Not including these elements of the world around us seems to me just as weird as going to great lengths to pretend that a photograph is portraying wilderness when in fact it's done in a place—a park, reservation, preserve—where the natural world remains only because of strenuous human intervention. Or making landscape pictures while somehow avoiding, or retouching out, utility poles and powerlines. So, here's a shot with various bits of text, along with pieces of a flag, a phone pole, and utility lines.

7 comments:

Martina said...

Never heard of this opinion ;-)

Scott Kirkpatrick said...

No fireplugs?

scott

Martina said...

Photographs shouldn't include fireplugs??


;-)

*just kidding*


btw I even use a tag "words" on my blog ... so far I have posted 99 photos including words in the years. Tsssk.

Carl Weese said...

I have a "pictures of text" tag that shows 88 entries...

Profligatographer said...

Carl, I am among those who try to limit or avoid text in images, because too many viewers will first read the text (whether it is in the image, or printed on a card beside it) and automatically assume that that is the essential meaning of the work. At which point, they stop looking and move on.

Bloggers will often reinforce this confining behavior by repeating that text at the top of each post.

Helen Levitt did not title her work, because it would limit what and how the viewer would see. [I recommend reading Thomas Dikant's excellent paper that talks more about this.]

There is also the matter of assuming that anyone looking at a picture can read the words and understand the language.

Carl Weese said...

A viewer might treat the text as the essential meaning, and ignore the rest of the content. But then people who think that a picture should have an important central subject, while the rest is just background, would only pay attention to the car and boat. Maybe complain there should be only one or the other, while never bothering to look at anything else in the frame. I always title pictures with just the location where the exposure was made (ever since encountering this convention in Harry Callahan's work back in the sixties). My blog post titles are different from the picture titles.

Taken For Granted said...

Those who view photographs bring their own personal bias and interpretation to their meaning, impact, and esthetic. That perception may have nothing to do with the photographer's intention. For some this is a photo about American systems of social control (note the flag and the sign), for others this a photo about the work of maintaining the forest by cutting diseased trees or cutting trees to provide safety of the road. For others this photo is about contemporary modes of transportation with pickup truck, boat, and car. Whether the words influence the viewer depends how those words are filtered through the viewer's perceptions. "Seeing" photos or art always depends on our background, education, social class, experience, and a host of other variables.