Photograph titles

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by SchwinnParamount, Sep 28, 2005.

  1. SchwinnParamount

    SchwinnParamount Member

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    I don't know about anybody else... I've always avoided titling my photographs. It seems silly and redundant. Shouldn't the photograph speak for itself? I display a photograph and expect the viewer to interpret it however they choose. My impressions of the photograph are pretty much irrelevant to this viewer. Does a title attempt to impose my interpretation on the viewer?

    For an example, a picture of a cloud is clearly a cloud and nothing else. If I had to title it then I'd call it 'Cloud' or maybe 'Rain Cloud' A title like '...waiting to get soaked' or some other cutesy/cheesy title would merely demean the work.

    Do you title your photographs? If so, what is your motivation? What are you trying to convey that the photograph doesn't already convey?
     
  2. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Generally I do not title my photographs. The only place I do, is in the APUG galleries. I just figured it was the done thing.
     
  3. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    We had a thread on this a couple of years ago. My photo club had just held a critique of just photographs alone - no title cards. Some of the judges really had a hard time commenting because without the title, they didn't know what they were supposed to look at. From that, I realized that a lot of people, even judges, look for photographs of "things" and that photographs of subjects such as texture or relationships, etc. are beyond them. Thus, a name may detract from what one is trying to convey.

    I began giving my photographs names based on random Chinese words generated by a computer as a way to avoid giving a "thing" in the photo a name. Then I ran into someone who spoke Chinese who tried to make the Chinese name meaningful.

    I've since reverted to just a place name and date - Dutton Island Preserve, May 2005 - for instance.
    juan
     
  4. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Subscriber

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    I do title them, but I do what you are talking about, I make minimalist titles that identify the image without interpreting it. The only exception so far is the one in my gallery that is a night shot with a swimmer in a river. Frankly, if I didn't do something about it, I think people would miss the swimmer and that is the most interesting part of the photo. Otherwise, it is "Hood" "Backstage" "Rocks" etc. I agree that I don't want to have titles that are cutesy or try to interpret the photo. I have a friend who had a show and one of her pieces was a photo off of a ruin in Mexico and the sky was very interesting, clouds that were kind of eye shaped. She titled it "The Eye of God." That actually really ruined the experience of the photograph for me.
     
  5. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    I have no problem with titling a photograph. I don't think it in any way demeans an image. There are far less knowledgable viewers than on this list that may view a photograph that have no clue what the photographer is trying to convey. ( At times my self included! ) I really cannot understand why one would want to avoid titling any photographic image. When I view a photograph that is not titled I have the feeling that the photographer himself is not completely aware why he/she made the image in the first place. To not title also gives me the impression that the original thought process behind making the image was/is so shallow that the maker is totally unsure of his/her ability, or can't come up with a name, so why should I waste my time looking at his/her work. It is a personal thing, I don't believe you are right or wrong by not conveying some of your thought process in an images title, but I most certainly think it adds to the viewing experience to think that the photographer thought enough of an image to give it a name. I am not fond of the terminology "cheezy" or "cutsy" titles but to me any title is better than no title at all. A title to me in no way conveys any information on how I will interpret an image, the content alone may or may not do that. The title is only the name of the work presented.
    This is my opinion.................Yes I title my photographs!
     
  6. wfe

    wfe Member

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    Some I do and some I don't. If I make an image that resonates very strongly with me and a title comes to mind that I feel is appropraite, I use it otherwise I don't title it. I don't believe in titles just for the sake of having one.
     
  7. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Subscriber

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    Thanks Charles. I appreciate hearing a well argued difference of opinion to mine. At this time I am not changing my approach, but I will certainly think about it some more.

    Paul.
     
  8. SchwinnParamount

    SchwinnParamount Member

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    I've always felt that viewing a photograph and attaching meaning is far too subjective and personal for an imposed title to have any meaning. I know what my photograph means to me but you may look at my picture and see something entirely different. In that case, do you really care what I think it means?

    I certainly agree with you that a phtograph title should name a work and give it a unique identifier. As to conveying meaning? we'll have to amicably agree to disagree.
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    I like factual titles--the location of a landscape, the name or initials of a portrait subject, the things pictured in a still life. This sort of title gets the obvious "what is that?" questions out of the way, so the viewer can see the photograph.

    I hate emotive titles. If the photograph can't convey the emotion, then a title like "Intensity" or "Beautiful" just makes things worse.
     
  10. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I don't dislike titles, its just that before I joined APUG I had never given thought to titling any of my photographs. If I do so now I try to keep the title relevent to the image.
    When I see a photograph called 'Untitled', as we frequently do in the galleries, then I have to say it is not so easy to decide what the photographer is/was trying to convey (if indeed they are trying to 'convey' anything!). A titled photo gives me at least an idea of the thinking behind the photo, even if (only very rarely) the word pretentious flashes through my mind, for example when I see titles such as those David has mentioned above. (I just looked through my own photos on APUG, I reckon 'pretentious' might apply to one or two of my own, but hey, I'm still learning, lol!)
     
  11. rduraoc

    rduraoc Member

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    I believe (from the little I read about this) that this subject depends on the way we look at art. And there are currently two main streams: if you are a post-modernist, you won't give a title to your image, because you don't want to transmit a specific message, but only to start some kind of thought/feeling process in the viewer, without caring if it resembles your own as the author. If you are a modernist, you have a specific message you want to convey, and therefor, you put a title, and maybe even give a short description (as in most of Sebastião Salgado's work - to give an extreme example). I try to define very well what I want to express with the photos I make, but I'm not saying it is easy. But I certainly don´t like the idea of leaving the interpretation to the viewer.
     
  12. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Oh man... this is something that has had me ranting the other day! All I have to say is two words and a puntuation mark: P***O.net...

    I just love the people there with some of the most contrived, pseudo-intellectual, blow-hard titles...

    My favorites are the nudes - there will be a naked girl on a bed (well done or not - 'tis not the issue here) and a title like:

    Emptiness.

    or:

    Fear and expectations.

    And no, I don't buy that the "artist" is trying to convey anything - its usually just the same naked woman as the same person posts in a dozen other photographs, on the same bed or next to a wall or whatever, with the same expression.

    I also think that people with the "blue #1" or "purple #5" titles are often trying for something that their work alone does not accomplish.

    Personally, I add titles that are factual or sometimes humorous - but mainly because the gallery format on the web led me to it. Sometimes its funny. Sometimes its not. Perhaps there is someone on a different forum ranting about me and my titles :smile:
     
  13. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Let me try to respond, one question at a time. All answers are to be considered particularly my own, with NO allusion to any sort of "ultimate truth".

    I do title my work, at times. Not invariably.

    The only motivation I have is the classic. ever-present "making it WORK" .. and I'll accept/ grab/ steal - if need be - all the help I can get to that end (note 1).

    The "experincer" WILL ultimately interpret the work in any manner they choose - or are compelled to - by their own sets of values, preconditioning, vision, emotions. I don't think that influencing that interpretation is necessarily off-limits. It is OK to lead - I NEVER want to force.

    Possibly, a test would be to consider some of the significant works - Do we recognize them from their titles? Edward Weston's Nude - THE nude, where she is, more or less "curled up" .. I'm fairly sure that DOES have a title, but I can never recall what it is; Adam's "Moonrise ..." - I immediately "see" that image, although I can't remember the entire title (.."over Heranadez"..?).
    Renoir's "Torse au Soleil" - works brilliantly in French - and to me fails miserably in English, as "Torso in Sunlight".

    When I visit a gallery, I find it useful to use a two-stage approach - first, I'll view the works without using the program containing titles and description of the works; then I will return and consider them WITH the use of the program. Sometimes, I will see the works differently, sometimes not.

    That "My impressions are pretty much irrelevant to the viewer ..."
    I cannot disagree, or take exception to that, - I can only say that my impressions are all-important to the WORK. Hopefully the viewer will understand and "see" them in the same light as I do. That is why I do what I do.

    IMHO, the title, or absence of a title, is part of the Aesthetic. I don't have formulae, or explanation for them ... no more than I do for anything else of "What WORKS, and what doesn't".

    Note 1: Well, almost steal. Not to the point of plagarism.
     
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  15. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    Ed - Don't worry about plagarism. Remember, if your photograph is in a different format, then it's not plagarism. :D

    Weston numbered his photographs. I'll bet the one you describe is Nude, #227. That method worked for him, but that's only because he was a great photographer.

    I find titling cumbersome and a pain, so I usually try to limit the titles to a short description a la Goldfarb.
     
  16. mikewhi

    mikewhi Restricted Access

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    This is sort of a pet peeve of mine, so I'll give my 2 cents. I really dislike titles, especially 'intrepretative'. If I saw a nude with the title 'Emptiness' on it, I'd leave the show and not look back. Any 'factual' title, I believe should be placed on the reverse of the mount. The only thing I expect to see on the front is the image and a signature, and it's ok with me if the signature isn't there. The image should stand on it's own and the viewer should not be led into any specific intrepretation by a descriptive title. If it's factual (like, 'Rock 1997'), well that can just as easily be on the back - I can probably use 3% of my brain and figure out that it's a rock and who cares when it was shot?

    My $.02

    -Mike
     
  17. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    One of the fabulous things about being 53 is....I'll be making some photograph that's going to make my name a household word and I've already got this great Ansel Adams-esque title in my head before the shutter is tripped. But not to worry because I can never remember any of them later when the photo is developed. One other problem with titles is.........I know this picture had a title but what the hell was it........Oh never mind, just tag another one to it instead. I refuse to get anal worrying about it.
     
  18. Reid Gray

    Reid Gray Member

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    Can anyone explain the minor convention (perhaps more common in other modern art forms besides photography, but I see it here too) of calling something "Untitled" and then following it with a title in parenthesis? I occasionally come across titles along the lines of "Untitled (Ineluctable Blue Innuendo XVII)" or some such thing. Is there an understood meaning here, such as that the artist didn't have a title in mind but gallery owners or art collectors have since given the work a nickname? I ask because in many cases it seems as though the artist actually titled the thing "Untitled (Ineluctable Blue Innuendo XVII)" from the start, which strikes me as pretense to the point of self-parody. Perhaps the latter evolved from the former?
     
  19. tim elder

    tim elder Member

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  20. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I'm absolutely HORRIBLE at coming up with titles for mine. But some images seem to earn them. And "untitled" seems more pretentious to me than a cutesy name.
    In the camera club I'm in, we're supposed to give ours titles, but they only read the title after the judge has scored it and given comments.
     
  21. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Restricted Access

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    g'day Schwinn,
    i always title my images, sometimes just place and date and other times very basic in regard to how i interpret the image

    i don't want to tell the viewer how to interpret the image but i do want the viewer to know i value it and am proud to put it out there

    the subject, as presented by me, should be obvious without a title, if it is not then the image is not successfully conveying my message and for me is not a 'good' picture
     
  22. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    I title much of my work by the name of the location. Other times I will try to relate a title to the image, and in some cases I will use a tongue in cheek title. However, I sell most of my work through Art shows and will also be selling the work through galleries. The title aids the viewer giving them a reference; if they consider purchasing a piece in the future they want a way to find the image.

    Rich
     
  23. b1ltr1te

    b1ltr1te Member

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    Factual titles, providing a descriptor to a photo, whether it be a time, an event, a place, etc., really helps me connect to the work. It doesn't have to be a fancy schmancy title; I would rather it not be.

    I have nightmares about walking into a video store with shelves and shelves of videos lining the walls and all labeled "Untitled".
     
  24. Reid Gray

    Reid Gray Member

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    Tim, thanks for the explanation. That means in those cases where the parenthetical title seems a bit much (as sometimes happens in modern visual arts other than photography), it's because of the gallery's vision rather than the artist's. That's good to know---it will help me appreciate what the artist did without having to be too distracted by someone else's ideas about it. An artist could insist on "Untitled (No, Really---Untitled)," but I suppose that can be used only once.
     
  25. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    I detest detailed, factual titles for landscapes unless someone is working for the local Chamber of Commerce, where I would expect it. What are you selling, your artwork or tourism? Anything much more detailed than "Western Wyoming, 1997" for pure, straight landscapes seems like Chamber of Commerce commercial hype to me. Untitled is much better.

    Other than that, it really depends. I rarely title my abstracts or landscapes (nor will I give anyone a detailed description of a location if they ask, because then they have already stopped thinking about the photograph itself and are thinking about the place). Other times titles just come to me that describe something of how I felt when making the photograph. Sometimes it will be a song title or words from a song, something like that. These may seem as corny or pretentious or nonsensical to others as some of the examples given above do to me, but oh well. I work primarily to please myself, and I dont title prints often. My photograph "Insomnia" in the gallery is an example, it explains how I felt at the time (surreal, green and sleepless) but it may or may not be helpful for someone viewing it. Neverthless, I cant seperate that title from it in my mind. I would never put a title of any kind on a actual print mount, but I usually make one up if I post something on the web. I rarely like those ones that I made up just to give it a title, I feel no connection to them.


    Wayne
     
  26. KenM

    KenM Member

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    Title them, don't title them - it's up to the photographer.

    However, if you do title your images, don't put the title on the front - if you mount your prints, place the title on the back. If you don't mount them, write the title in pencil on the back of the print.

    I can't stand photographs that have been titled - if I realize that a photo has been titled, I ignore the title until *after* viewing the print and coming to my own opinion. A title can (consciously or unconsciously) skew your opinion.

    Put another way, a title may prevent you from experiencing the print in the most fulfilling way - your way.