There were a couple of really interesting insights that came out of the Robbert Flick workshop that I attended last weekend. One was a new perspective on titling photos. I’m probably simplifying his position greatly, but he seemed to feel that titles were often not necessary, and that if used, should be somewhat general. The basic idea is that a title is like a frame–you are providing additional context for the photograph that will influence how the viewer perceives it. This is, on the face of it, unsurprising. And most people who use titles are using them precisely for this purpose. I sort of began to see a bit from his viewpoint, however, about not forcing too much context on the viewer. Let them come to the photograph. Let them interpret it in their own context. The human mind loves to compartmentalize. Anything that lets you file the photo you are viewing into a various categories, or boxes in your mind, will be used. And you can see how a title would aid that. And then you are on to the next photo.
The titles I chose for my SoFoBoMo photos were chosen very quickly. His point was that they don’t really do much good. Take Shot on Goal: does that title really tell you anything that the photo does not? And it only serves to focus your attention quickly on the main subject so that you mentally file it away faster. By letting the viewer explore the work without any additional aids to context might make them explore it a bit longer, or see other things in it, or give it additional meanings. (Not that this example would benefit that much, Ahem.)
I think there is really something to that idea. And yet, photo books without words sometimes seem bereft of context. Sometimes that commentary is what draws you into the photos, or makes them more meaningful. Perhaps the difference is that it is more than just a simple title? If you are going to bother to provide textual context–do it thoroughly?
It’s all very interesting food for thought. If nothing else, I will be thinking a lot more carefully about my titles for a while.