Discontinuities – Captions

This part of the course touches the concept of what determines the information that a photograph conveys. Although the actual elements in the photograph determine how the image itself can be described, it is the ‘context within which a photograph is produced, distributed and consumed that determines the information that it conveys’. Before studying photography I was not so aware of these other factors that determine the way I look at photographs and the conclusions I draw from their meaning apart from the visual elements in the image itself.

It took a few instances of ‘viewer’s rage’, the upheaval that is caused when one discovers that what you have been looking at is not real, to become aware of my own paradigm from which I look at images and the influence of presentation and background information. Now that I photograph myself and try to extend the genres in which I work, I realise even more how much influence I have on the final image and still how completely different the images are perceived by its viewers.

I realise that in the case of wanting to point to a certain element of the portrayed reality, an image can’t do without caption or other information (like audio) to guide the viewer’s eye and perceptions in that direction. The reader quotes Berger about the effect of adding text to a photograph, “they produce together an effect of certainty, even dogmatic asertion” (Berger & Mohr, 1995, p.91).

Thinking about captioning, Jim Goldberg and Duane Michals are some examples that are masters of captioning. Through the combination of their captions and images they are able to reinforce and complement each other and bring a viewer to a completely different conclusion after its initial look at the image. Their captions bring deeper meaning, not only to the image as a whole, but to the personalities and thoughts of the subjects in the images themselves, drawing the viewer into the inner lifes, instead of keeping a distant surveying view that other documentary photographs sometimes tend to have. From subjects, the people in the images become personalities, with thoughts and frustrations, deeper feelings and human frailties.

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SayItWithSilence (2013) ‘Person to person’ by Duane Michals, 1974 SayItWithSilence. Available at: http://www.siws.fr/2013/11/25/32416/ (Accessed: 1 September 2016).
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Girap, S. and Goldberg, J. (2014) Jim Goldberg. Available at: http://alchetron.com/Jim-Goldberg-572907-W (Accessed: 1 September 2016).

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