by Rob Gray
the viewer, the meaning of the print is his meaning. If I try
to impose mine by intruding descriptive titles, I insult the viewer,
the print, and myself.
Many great photographers either didnt
name their photos or gave them purely descriptive titles. The
pull quote above makes Ansel Adams views fairly clear. Edward
Weston did caption his photos, but with names like Eroded Rock,
Cow Tree Barn and Pepper #30 I think its fair to say that
he wasnt trying to add any meaning to his images.
I have always been of two minds about captioning photographs.
On the one hand I think it is possible to indicate to the viewer
my thoughts about the image with an appropriate caption. On the
other hand, as Adams says, why should I impose my opinions on
the viewer. Nevertheless I do caption my photos and believe that
the caption should, ideally, add some value. It should at least
give the viewer an inkling of what I think about the image.
The photo Tolkiens Trees is a good example. Why Tolkiens
Trees? Having read The Hobbit and Lord of The
Rings several times, I consider myself an avid J R R Tolkien
fan. This grotto, with its twisted trees and running brook, just
reminded me of Middle Earth. No scene in particular, but I can
imagine Gollum in such a place, admiring his Precious.
As soon as I saw the first working print I knew what I would call
This is a good title as an incident in my gallery testifies.
One day two girls, around ten years of age, were looking at this
photo. One said You can see why hes called it Tolkiens
Trees. The other agreed. If you can strike a chord with
a couple of ten-year-olds youre doing pretty well with the
naming of your photos.
I got it right on this occasion, but I admit that I dont
always do so. However the alternative of calling everything "Untitled"
is not an option for me.
Sometimes I know what the caption will be the instant I see an
image, while at other times I rack my brains for ages trying to
think of a good one. Its not uncommon for the release of
an image to be delayed by weeks for lack of a caption. Occasionally
I give up and, in despair, call an image Three
Rocks and a Trunk or something similar. Normally this is
an indication that the image is not one of my best.
About the Author: The photographer
Rob Gray (aka the Feral Fotographer) has been a photographer (either
a professional or amateur) since 1971 when he bought his first
camera in Panama.
Since then he has photographed just about everything
from cheetahs in Africa through disaster victims in Australia
to lemon slices in London.
Over the last few years Rob has been holding workshops
and teaching at the Canberra School of Photography. He enjoys
these activities and hopes to be able to keep them going in some
form while travelling. As to exactly how, he's not sure yet but
if you need a guest speaker at your camera club give him a call.
Rob is 47, has semi-retired and lives permanently
on-the-road looking for images and avoiding real work as much
as possible. He photographs the Australian landscape with a 5x4"
You can see more of Rob's work at the following
- Rob Gray