Naming photographs

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by eggshell, Jan 19, 2007.

  1. eggshell

    eggshell Member

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    Hi all,

    One simple question -- Is it necessary to name a title to all photographs one makes?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    g'day egg

    what do you think? it's your work

    does the image need a title/caption to explain it?

    does it need a title/place name to contextualise it?

    does it need an individual tag for referencing?

    would it be well served by "Untitled No. --?
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    No.

    Personally, I think it's useful to supply a name or initials of the subject for portraits or to provide the location for a landscape, just so the question of "where is that" or "who is that" or "what is that" doesn't become a distraction for the viewer.

    Emotive or sentimental titles are almost always a bad idea, in my opinion (unless maybe they are used in an ironic way). The image should convey the emotion, not the title.
     
  4. Lopaka

    Lopaka Member

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    I agree completely, although I have seen some well-regarded photographers use what I would consider gimicky titles.

    Bob
     
  5. MikeSeb

    MikeSeb Member

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    David said it well (never an impediment, however, to my jumping in :smile: ).

    As a prominent example, I note that a lot of captioning nonsense surrounds nude studies. The photographers can't seem to just STFU and let the image do the talking.

    One result, the Just Got My 48 Megapixel Digicam approach, is the use of gimmicky or cutesy "mood" captions meant to tout the photographer's skill at evoking that state of mind in the shivering waif before the lens. Hence, "alluring" (="I can see her uterus"); "shy" (="you want me in WHAT position?"); "pensive" (="bored out of my skull").

    Another result, the I'm Way Smarter Than All of You method, is to go with one-word captions whose brevity is meant to hint at the photographer's immmeasurable wells of intellectual depth and philosophical consideration. In practice, however, the wells are often dry, and the captions become anatomical labels--"breast" being the favorite, as if it might be tough to divine the photographer's tool-calendar obsession otherwise.

    As for me, I hate captions because they force upon me an unaccustomed decisiveness. Recognizing their usefulness, however, I've made ineffectual stabs at the job. For portraits I often try a short description of the activity underway; for landscapes/scenics, the location and date; for industrial/abstracts/all others, some adjective that gives just enough context info to help the viewer make sense of the image without imposing an interpretation upon him/her.
     
  6. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    I simply call all the photographs I make 'Fred.'

    Who makes up these rules?
     
  7. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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  8. MikeSeb

    MikeSeb Member

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    Now THERE's a sensible, and brief, answer! :smile:
     
  9. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I don't like titles. I generally use that field in the galleries for a terse descriotion or the time and place.
     
  10. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    I sometimes wonder: If some of the great photographers in the past were still alive today, would they be as embarassed as I am by the truly wretched titles they gave to their otherwise wonderful photographs?
     
  11. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I go with place name (or significant physical features of the landscape) and the date. These never go on the front of the mat...but on the back, and on the walltag if being displayed on a wall in a show. The title is there if the viewer is interested. Just assigning numbers to images seems a bit boring to me, but works for other photographers.

    Titles can be used to take the viewer one step farther than the image itself does...just as hand gestures can add to a conversation. Both can be distracting if not used carefully. Ted Orland is an example of a photographer who uses titles well.

    So no rules -- just (uncommon) common sense.

    Vaughn
     
  12. eddym

    eddym Member

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    "I just love that picture on your website! I'd like to purchase a print! How much is it?"
    "Which picture?"
    "You know, the one of the girl... It's called 'Untitled.'"
    "Which girl?"
    "The blond..."
    "The nude blond or the one in the bikini?"
    "No, no the one in the black lace!"
    "The black lace negligee or the black lace evening gown?"
    "The one.... you know... the one... Oh, never mind!"

    Call it anything, but don't call it "Untitled"!
     
  13. FrankB

    FrankB Member

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    You don't take these things seriously?!

    Well...

    :D
     
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  15. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    untitled is better than cutsy names.
     
  16. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Be fair: there ARE limits and that title contravened several international Pun Proliferation Limitation Agreements and at least two separate United Nations Security Council resolutions...



    Drat... Sussed... :wink:

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  17. kunihiko

    kunihiko Member

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    I was wondering how to explain. This is it:smile:
     
  18. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    About 95% of the time I title a photograph for personal archival and reference uses only. I might title a photograph with a feeling I have to let people know what the image means to me. And occasionally, I make an image that I beleive a title would cheapen it, so I leave it alone. So, for me, titles are purely for personal and/or selfish reasons. Nothing more.
     
  19. Doyle Thomas

    Doyle Thomas Member

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    Providing a title for an image helps to create an artifact and turn a picture into a Photograph and into a Print. It is of course, a marketing tool as well. That is why the galleries want it. I find that my best results come from images when I have a title before I even make the exposure.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 19, 2007
  20. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I have no idea what that means.
     
  21. eggshell

    eggshell Member

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    Very good! I like that. Thanks Vaughn. And the rest too. Thanks a lot.
     
  22. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    a unique title indicates that the artist cares about the work and values it as an individual piece

    what does "Untitled" convey? i don't care! it's just one of many! it's a throwaway! i couldn't be bothered to go that extra step!
     
  23. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I think intelligent people can have differing views on this. I take the position that a photograph of mine should speak for itself and that I'm not interested in using words to either support the image or give it something that isn't already present. But see, that's because that works for the kind of phtography that intersests me. I've seen plenty of images where titling is relevent to the work.
     
  24. Wayne

    Wayne Subscriber

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    I have no rules, except I dont think people should give detailed locality information for landscape photos of untrammeled places. The world is too small now. Let people find these few places for themselves, dont go giving directions. A good landscape photo needs nothing more than "Yellowstone National Park" or "San Juan Mountains" or "Fall colors in Utah". Because if its a really good photo you can count on a whole flock of photo-lemmings beating their way there ASAP to get their own great picture, and so the out of the way place suddenly becomes known at an exponential rate. If its Old Faithful, who cares, thats already ruined.

    I have seen emotive titles that work good for me, and some that dont. Its definitely a risk, and some people dont have the knack for it.
     
  25. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    As one who has been entangled in setting up some art shows, there is a practical issue about titles. If an artist can submit multiple pieces to a juried show, tracking two or three pieces all with no title or specifically labeled "Untitled" is a real PITA. We once badgered a guy into making his two submissions "Untitled #1" and "Untitled #2" so if one got rejected and one didn't we could keep it straight in the gallery stubs. If the works are for sale, the artist might like to be sure the big one for $500 didn't get sold as its $150 mate too.

    As one who both paints and photographs, I agree that titles can be a pain -- and sometimes too cute (or too long), but I usually try to come up with something -- sometimes just one word. The one word might be fairly indirect, I once titled a shot of a gnarly ancient tree "Time." (Won a prize too!)

    DaveT
     
  26. Mark H

    Mark H Member

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    I once entered a juried show with an untitled photo, which then won an award. It was a great boost to the ego! But I can't bring myself to display the beautiful wooden plaque that was awarded, with the brass mounting proclaiming blah blah blah "...for the photograph 'Untitled' ".
    So now I usually use descriptive place (or model) names, unless there immediately comes to mind an appropriate title that fits and enhances the photo.