Image & Text as Point of Entry
As long-term readers of LensWork already know, I've been an advocate of image and text combinations for a long time. My reasons are quite simple; words and language can offer an entry-point to the understanding and appreciating of our images that is often denied to the images themselves. Here is one small anecdote that illustrates the point.
At the CPA exhibition this last weekend the wife of an accomplished and long-term photographer could not wait to tell me how much she appreciated my Made of Steel folio that was on display. She started, however, by confessing that when she glanced at the images on the wall she had no interest in them whatsoever — garages, greasy tools, "guy stuff" as she described it. However, at the invitation of her photographer-husband, she read the introductory text about my grandfather and his shop that was the motivation for this project. With that personal connection and introductory story as context to understand the images, she engaged them with enthusiasm and was quite effusive with her compliments.
Through the stories she was able to connect with the images. Notice the sequence of events in that last sentence. It was the stories — the words and text — that allowed her to form an appreciation for the images, a sequence that is 180° reversed from what we would normally expect. That is to say, reading is more difficult and time-consuming than glancing at an image; as a photographer, my assumption would be that the images would reach a viewer's consciousness first and text would be the supplement. In fact, as this woman demonstrated, comprehension, understanding, and connection may just as easily take place the other way around.
I think of this as a matter of motivation. After she had read the text, she was motivated to spend the time necessary for her to connect with the images. The text opened the doors to her perception. For me, this is simply perfect — a non-photographer connecting with my artwork via content rather than merely through an appreciation of photographic craft or technical accomplishment. If a little text is required to provide that motivation, aren't we, as photographers, well served by the time we spend to craft a little text that brings people closer to our images?
Brooks' books on photography and the creative process are available in print from Lulu.com, and as eBooks for Kindle or EPUB readers. As one of the membership benefits, these eBooks are available in their entirety to members of LensWork Online via download.