Back years ago when I was active in the Professional Photographers of America and the Professional Photographers of Canada I would go to the conventions and if we wanted we could sit through the print judging where a few hundred prints would be judged. As they were shown the title was given. There were so many prints with cheezy titles and cutesy names that everyone in the room wanted to barf. Many attempts were to try to get higher scores on the prints but usually is was just a mediocre print with just a "cute" name.
Originally Posted by Thomassauerwein
I got jaded.
Generally the good and great prints just had a basic name with no attempt to be cute. If it's a good print it probably should be able to stand alone. I do agree that titles are beneficial to identify a print.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
I like it when there are no hints in the title that try to lead me by the nose into interpreting a photograph a certain way - I want to make my own judgements about what the photograph means to ME.
Where I live is BIG country (few people, few roads), so to title a print, Passing Storm, BC, doesn't give enough information for people to know where it was taken. Passing Storm, Cape George, Porcher Island, Hecate Strait, BC...or...Hemlocks and Snow, Coho Flats, Kitimat River Valley, BC, lets people know roughly where they were taken. In the end they became known as Passing Storm, and Hemlocks and Snow anyways, but at least the rest of it is on the back of the print. It also may be important information to historians researching my work when it becomes valuable loooooong after I'm gone.
(I wish they had GPS when I started out 22 years ago, that it worked easily under the thick rainforest canopy, and that I had the wisdom to use it to pin-point my location when photographing. I have quite a few forest scenes that are now clear cuts. For a future photographer in several hundred years to re-photograph the scenes would be interesting...botanists and naturalists would find it interesting as well I think).
Titles should not limit the viewer's experience of the photograph. It is not important that the viewer get from the photograph what the photographer intended. Because of his/her own life experiences, a viewer may get more from a photograph than the photographer intended--or get something very different than what was intended.
In other words, titles should not get in the way. Titles such as "Sunset," "Springtime", etc, get in the way. At the other extreme, if a photograph is made of an identifiable landscape, and is titled, " Untitled," that gets in the way. The viewer may wonder where the photograph was made and that may keep him/her from getting further involved with it. Knowing where it was made is not usually what the photograph is about, but by titling it with a place name, as in "Hernandez, New Mexico," a barrier to the photograph is removed.
Titles reveal the intention of the photographer. A Walker Evans photograph of a church interior titled "Alabama" implies that the picture is about a whole society, a way of life. Had Evans titled it, "XYZ Baptist Church, ABC, Alabama" the same photograph would have been read/seen merely as a document of a very specific place and the resonance implied by the simple title, "Alabama" would have been lost.
Frankly I'm jealous of people who can name their photographs and feel satisfied. I can't do it. I try but I always feel foolish because there are no words for me other then "this is my eye seeing a (fill in the object in the photo)" Someone said their photographs are the relationships and arrangements of everything in the frame, but actually the subject is ourselves in relation to and precieving the objects in the frame. A title that doesn't pay homage to this reationship must be superficial and won't add anything positive for the viewer.
help me to name this image
I had a show at "Fototeca de Veracruz" with the work of the slaughterhouses. I titled it "In Extremis" and as subtitle "alguien tiene que hacerlo" (someone has to do it). The images were "named" in order of inventory control as "Cabezas (heads) 1", "Cabezas 2" ... "Feto (embrio) 1" "Feto 2"... etc. The museographer call me when they end to hang the whole show and ask me for individual titles or captions for one of each photo, I answer him to put the inventory code or "name", and he said that don't like them but he will put at the beginning a "cedula" (small caption with the title and work description) with the following text: "All of the images shown are silver prints, 16x20 inches, taken between 1999 and 2003".
The question is how do you title this photo as it is "Embrio 1"? or something else? if you have to put a title for a show.
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A very interesting thread, I appreciate everyones comments, and my thanks to all that shared their thoughts about what I feel is a very dificult at times, controversial topic.
There is no 'easy" answer to this -- or anything else in art.
It depends ... How do you want the work presented? If you think it "works" without a title, so be it. If you think the photograph "works" with an ornate frame - or a simple one - or frameless ... again - so be it.
A title CAN "set the stage" - precondition, to an extent, the "experiencer." I wonder if Picasso's "Guernica" would be viewed in the same light without the title as a pre-stimulus / reminder of the inspiration for the work. Dali's "Dream Evoked by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate", would be another example.
However, nothing in art, as far as I've able to tell, is set in stone, or infallible. A "cutesy" title, a bad pun ... can as easily set the stage unfavorably.
A few months ago, I had an interesting experience. I was on board in the modest Town-owned and operated Gallery that I ... "curate" (?) with the Curator of a serious, well-respected, established New York Gallery... and the informal, off-the-record conversation drifted to the matting and framing of a certain artist's work, which was hanging at the time. Nothing formal, just "side" comments ... but I was immediately struck by the incredible depth of knowledge this curator had of the nuances and visual stimuli added, and modified by, by the "peripherals" .. the "voice" added by an complicated, ornate frame- which was ... not really appropriate on the complex, ornate oil painting it framed. There were other examples... a minimal, simple frame on a photograph with "simple elements" - again, out of place... something "heavier" would have added a great deal.
All this is not meant as a digression - I'm only trying to establish the idea that everything that goes into the work - holistically - in the exhibition has an influence on the way it is perceived.
Now - where to learn about the "elements" affecting the work ..? I haven't a clue. I know of no books on the subject and I've heard of no Art Classes incorporating all this or even some of this into their course of study.
I probably learned more from my conversation with that Curator in the space of fifteen minutes than I have from all other sources up until then.
I will tell you of the method I used for determining a title for one of my works. I developed the print ... was fascinated -- by "getting a good one" (for a change). I ran upstairs, to where my youngest daughter was, and asked her, "Give me a number". She did, "twenty-six". That was my title. "Abstraction #26". Not entirely random ... the final part of the exercise was my judgement of whether "Abstraction #26" worked or not. It did.
Ed Sukach, FFP.