Thursday, 6 January 2011

How text can changes the meaning of a photograph

When presented with a photograph, the content that is being depicted is subject to conjecture and the personal opinion of the viewer.

With the introduction of text to the image, the creator of the photograph can attempt to influence and manipulate the way the viewer perceives what is relevant, consequently creating a meaning according to the context.

Documentary photography and photojournalism are clear examples of this. If the photograph were clearly depicting a famous and historic event it would be next to impossible to not have some prior knowledge off, text would be mostly unimportant with the content speaking for its self.

If the photograph were extremely obscure it would become enhanced by being given a context that may have been excruciatingly difficult to fathom with out some form of text giving a written explanation or clue.

This photograph by Paul Lowe is intended to depict the humanitarian and political turmoil that people around the world face on a daily basis.

Paul Lowe has worked for lots of newspapers and been to many war torn countries delivering images like this to audiences across the world.

The signs in this photograph, the child with hands over his eyes, the open car door and the man with his hands behind his back suggest an uneasy, tense situation.

The use of text in this photograph changes our perception of the context. Without the words United Nations this would simply be people on a street, just a man holding a bag with no more meaning than your own imagination wishes to put on it. The introduction of text plays a vital role, making the photographs relevant. 

How text influences our emotions?

Text can help to engage the viewer of a photograph by taking a difficult subject matter and making a statement that challenges our mindset.

The photographer Michael Ensminger uses a heavy dose of irony to make this statement about how we view homeless people.

"Some people were very indignant about what I was doing," he says. "They'd yell things (at the photographer) like, ‘You fucker, leave him alone!' And these were generally liberal people. I found them as narrow-minded as anybody, because they had these pre-formed ideas about how to approach the homeless."

"I wasn't trying to be something I'm not," he says. "I'm not that courageous. I wasn't ready to walk away from my life and my business. I was aware of the options of what I 
can do, and at this point, I'm not trying to illuminate something about the homeless. I'm trying to wring the irony out of it."

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