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Titling Photographs

Ted Kostek , Apr 11, 2001; 08:08 a.m.

I saw a photographer peddling his wares at a show a while back. His photos were nice, but didn't grab me particularly. Not until I noticed that every image had an arresting title.

For example, there was a photo of two large leaves together on a pond and one small leaf a bit farther off. The title was "How Parents Feel." By itself, the photo seemed nice, but nothing special. The title added a whole new level and made it striking and emotionally evocative.

I have come to understand that every good photo has a definite idea. Presumably, this photographer put his/her idea in the title, and that's why it was effective. What does anyone think about this?

On the one hand, it clearly helped to communicate with me, and I assume it helped to communicate with others.

On the other hand, this practice could be construed as too heavy handed and limiting: "This is the way to look at this image; no other is acceptable."



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Aditya Bhushan , Apr 11, 2001; 12:45 p.m.

Ted, the title adds a lot to the photo, more for subjects that topical/temporal placement for their understanding to share in the photog's view. This includes lot of photojournalism and travel pics.

It is a very interesting title you mention of a much photographed theme and without seeing the photog. just the word imagery conjures up an interesting image.

Still for a fresh perspective I look at the photo I like, for a good duration before I read its title, if possible. This has a double advantage, either a surprise for figuring out correctly or a surprise how divergent my understanding was from someone who was there.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth 994 words.

Jeff Kennedy , Apr 11, 2001; 12:51 p.m.

I title mine. I don't put in on the mat or anything but the gallery where I show my stuff puts the title on the card next to the piece with my name and price on it. I do this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I find its easier to keep track of prints sold by name rather than by a print number. And "B", it does add to the shot IMO. For example one of my prints hanging now is of a flower growing on a rock in the middle of a river. I titled this one "Castaway". I try to make most of my images convey not only the beauty of a scene but an idea or emotion. People get tired of postcard shots but images that tell a story are compelling.

g a , Apr 11, 2001; 01:06 p.m.

I agree with the other replies, Titles can be informative and help the audience understand the photograph- I do absolutely hate though when photographers use titles to add emotion to a bland image. For example, a photo with heavy shadows entitled "Isolation" or "despair." The title should be informative to what is in the photograph- not making up for what isn't there. I feel the same way about artist's statements. Nothing is more annoying than a pedantic statement about the profound meaning of a series of boring pictures. I usually try to avoid reading both titles and statements until after looking at the photographs, if at all.

Vagelis Logaras , Apr 11, 2001; 04:14 p.m.

I think that photographs should have a title.After all photos are art pieces, like paintings.Titling doesn't limit my fantasy!!!

William Nicholls , Apr 11, 2001; 06:17 p.m.

Not all works of art are titled. Some are elaborately titled. What's appropriate is mostly personal. There's nothing wrong with a verbal assist if it's well done.

On the other hand, I far prefer either no title or a simple descriptive title to a cloying or overly gothic bit of prose. An overdone title doesn't help a mediocre photo unless the photographer is a great wordsmith.

Jeroen Schouten , Apr 11, 2001; 07:53 p.m.

I am with William. I prefer NO title or a descriptive one. A lot of people titling their work just go overboard. Like a previous poster said, a picture with lots of shadows and it's called "Despair". I art is suposed to make people think... why give em the training wheels of a title. IMHO most titles diminish the work, simply because the artis and I disagree on the emotion a picture brings with it. And YES! I do title my work.... but it's mockery really. If you look in my folder here at photo.net you will find that most of the titles are exceprts from songs... It's a little association game I play with myself and my audience (if any). A picture of a cat becomes "Little boy blue and the man on the moon". If you know the song you will instantly sing the line that precedes my picture title (...and the CAT's in the cradle.... you know CAT stevens... picture of a CAT...) At least I have fun.....

Point W , Apr 11, 2001; 08:18 p.m.

The responces so far have been introspective. Unlike a novel, a photograph needs no title. In the same respect, a writing does not need a title that describe directly what the story is about. E.g. Catcher in the Rye. The title is used to lead the reader a specific idea.

The same in a photograph. The title should lead the viewer to a specific idea. It's not about description, or subject. Rather a direction for the audience. That is the only way titling is effective.

Tom Luongo , Apr 11, 2001; 08:45 p.m.

Why does a novel need a title?

Michael Goode , Apr 11, 2001; 09:09 p.m.

Sometimes titles can be limiting, in that they tell you too much how to look at a photograph. However, it annoys me a bit when I see a number of works of a photographer hanging side by side in a gallery, and they are all untitled. It makes me wonder if the photographer is even trying to communicate something with her photography.

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