At OCA we believe that your position or viewpoint is absolutely as valuable as the position of any author that you read; the only difference is that you probably won’t have fully discovered, or at least articulated, it yet. Your viewpoint is the source of your imagination and ideas but it can be quite a long journey to bring it into the light.
[27Jan21 p.89] Combinations of image and text are commonplace in daily life but thought needs to be given to the choices, intentions and effects of these combinations when using them with individual images or series.
Using pictures and words to help communicate … are shown here to be an important and effective tool for your photographic development. First, though, you’ll consider the simplest way of applying text to images – captions and titles.
We consider viewer desensitisation to violent imagery and whether photographs can be trusted.
Captions and Titles
[27Jan p.91] There are three categories of usage, Directional, Orientation and Complementary
These are straightforward, informative text giving a basic description the subject. Newspaper image captions are a common, relatively objective example. In advertising, the content is more subjective, providing information in support of the advertiser's purpose. Both tend to lead the viewer to a particular idea about a subject.
These give more general information, for example a name or location, giving the viewer more 'freedom' to reach their own conclusion.
Magritte, ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’, 1929
image source cmat
The cmat is not particularly clear on this one and states that we will return to the matter later. It gives the example of Magritte's painting of a pipe.
The text doesn't say this, but perhaps these titles are attempting to encourage but not influence the nature of a response. We'll see.
[5Aug19] I recently expressed the view that while I think it is appropriate to give a project a title, for individual images the subject and/or location and date should be specified, but not an interpretive title as the interpretation should be left to the viewer. Titling an image Untitled is usually taking things too far (Cindy Sherman being a case in point.)
Blackburn (me) August 2019, during EyV
The only index reference I can find for titles is in Wells (2009, pp. 291, 292), but it is a fascinating read which I will have to cut down in due course.
There are a number of methods whereby the interpretive latitude of
an image may be contained. These include photomontage, sequencing and
image-text techniques. We also have to take account of factors beyond the
image itself. The mounting and framing of pictures - whether single images or series, or sequences - is not neutral. Framing contributes to the rhetoric of the image through delineating the edge of the picture, that which is put into the frame. It also acts as a margin between the work and the wall on which it hangs. The established convention in post-Renaissance Art of framing paintings means that the frame also signifies the special status of a picture. However, the meaning of the frame is ambiguous: from the point of view of the gallery wall it is a part of the picture, but from the point of view of the picture it dissolves into the wall. In relation to the single image, this ambiguity is relatively clearly comprehended. Within sequences, or blocks of images, the play of the frame is more complex: the frame not only plays between the setting and the image, but also interacts with other frames within the grouping of pictures.
Written text commonly accompanies both single pictures, and series, groups or sequences. Written text includes titles, captions, artists' statements, poetry, or forewords which accompany an exhibition or book publication. Titling, and the signature of the artist, contribute to the claim for the status of the image as Art. Titles may be cryptic, or metaphoric, operating to extend resonances, or they may be primarily descriptive. For instance, a title such a Rome, 1975 or Waiting Room specifies place or type of location. However, the caption does not simply anchor; writing constitutes a further signifier within the complex interaction of discourses with which the spectator engages. For instance, the title Rome at the very minimum means something different to an Italian than to someone of another nationality. Titles or captions, simultaneously anchor, and become implicated in, play of meaning.
The refusal of a title, as in Untitled, is likewise not neutral. This implies the image is to 'speak for itself '.
Writing operates complexly. This is often particularly so in constructed
imagery within which text is montaged as an integral element. Here the verbal is articulated not only as a poetic reference but also as a visual element. Colour, handwritten or typographic style, placing, scale, prominence - all contribute to how we read the overall piece. Likewise, artists' statements do not simply contextualise, or determine a position from which the work is to be read, although, of course, they do offer this. If an artist is viewed as a special sort of seer, offering particular insights into the world of experience, then his or her statement contributes to this claim for authority.
Developments do not proceed in an orderly and coherent fashion. Whilst
digitally produced work takes its place alongside the straight photograph and constructed imagery, the relative lack of photographs in a number of major museum collections indicates that photography is still seen by some as a lesser art. The corollary of the new emphasis upon ideas and critiques was that, from the mid-1980s, straight photography found itself positioned ambiguously. On the one hand, museums established photography sections but, on the other hand, it became more difficult to retain space within the contemporary gallery; the foothold established in the 1970s had come to seem precarious. This was expressed partly in the practical issue of scale. Photography galleries had been designed to accommodate the standard-format image. A number of the newer photo-media galleries, which were larger- scale (often converted from disused industrial buildings), became key institutions within the new debates. The standard photograph became harder to show, smaller pictures being dwarfed within cavernous warehouse - now, gallery spaces (many of which have subsequently embraced video installation and digital experimentation). Wells, 2009, pp. 291, 292)
Next Barbara Kruger [p.93] who I thought we had already encountered on a previous course, but is not indexed. She merits an entry in every reference book I tried. Modrak & Anthes (2009, pp. 378-9) provide a summary of her working life, 10 years as a picture editor at Condé Nast after a frustrating art school education. She abandoned painting and verse performance after developing her response to mass communication, 'her use of a signature typeface (Futura Bold) over vintage black and white photographs'. Bull (1990, pp.138-9) brackets Kruger with Cindy Sherman in a fine context-setting paragraph,
In a partial continuation of the Conceptualist use of the camera to
record performances, Sherman's series of Untitled Film Stills ( 1977-1980) where she acts out characters from a range of cinematic genres from earlier decades (familiar to audiences from watching old films on television) were seen as a critique of female stereotypes in the media (Owens 1984: 223-234), a feminist celebration of the different roles a woman can have (Williamson 19886) and even as an act of art criticism itself (Krauss 1990: 27). Kruger's addition of words to 1940s and 1950s image bank photographs in photo-text pieces such as You Are Not Yourself ( 1981) were interpreted as subverting the address to the consumer found in advertising (Owens 19926: 191-200; see Chapter 4).
Bull, 1990, pp.138-9)
A.D. Coleman gave an unfavourable review of the Kruger installation shown in fig. B2 in a piece anthologised in 1995,
At first glance, this elaborate installation may seem impressive - eyecatching in its dramatic black, white and bright red, and definitely labor-intensive. As one engages with its ideas and structures, however, it gradually reveals itself to be hollow at the core. The hard-edged, commercial-art/agitprop graphic style on which she depends has lost whatever impact it derived initially from its introduction into the high-art context; in terms of visual interest, its limitations are severe, and Kruger has pushed it as far as it will go. By now it has devolved into mere fashion.
Moreover, her hectoring voice is wearing thin. Add to this the fact that her analysis of social ills becomes ever vaguer instead of more precise, and what you end up with are harangues that resonate with righteous indignation and give all the signals of political correctness but never actually make their point. Complicated rather than truly complex, the result in this case is a neo-rococo environment, involving a great deal of planning and work the actual return on which is minimal - not unlike, say, the set of Pee Wee Herman's Playhouse. It also looks really '80s, and - though I hate to be the bearer of such bad tidings - someone has to tell Kruger that the '80s are over.
A.D. Coleman, Letter from New York, No.21 in Critical Focus, 1995, pp. 95-96
Where alternative interpretations are applied to press images.
[25Mar] We consider the addition of text and how that can either seek to direct or liberate the viewers' interpretations
A Barthes essay is analysed — he examines how a viewer's personal baggage influences interpretation, but seems to miss the point that the same could be said of any accompanying text.