How much background info on a photo is too much?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Flower Child, Dec 16, 2009.

  1. Flower Child

    Flower Child TPF Noob!

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    I found this a very interesting topic because I had recently posted a photo with this background information:

    "Prevent Bloody Revolution! Patriots Arm Thyselves!
    With Truth and Resolve! Fascists Rule the Land!

    In this old school house near Camp 42 in the southeast corner of Kansas lived a very interesting man who was a political extremist and proud member the NRA. He always wore a pistol in plain sight in the top pocket of his overalls and kept his political whirlygig spinning in his front yard throughout his life"


    I personally thought this background information was benefiting the viewers to know the history behind the house. I felt that the information gave the school house significance and intensified the atmosphere of the photo.

    Another member, c.cloudwalker brought up an excellent point that made me think differently about it. His words:


    What do you guys think? Do you think too much information can ruin the mystery of the photo? Or do you think that the information can make the photo what it is?
     
  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Photos are supposed to stand on their own? WTF? What is "photojournalism" all about then? Why have so,so many famous photographers published books that contain photographs, along with explanatory texts, captions, extended captions, essays, or poetry?

    Undoubtedly, text that accompanies a photograph can alter the perception of that photograph. Photography has many roles; artistic expression, social documentary, political documentary, propaganda, family history,etc.

    Photos are supposed to stand on their own, eh? Wouldn't it be great if all of our doctors were educated from books just filled with photos of the human internal organs, minus all the text? I mean, shouldn't the photos stand on their own?

    Wouldn't National Geographic's photo essays on unusual and far-away cultures be much,much more interesting if they skipped all the caption information, threw away the text, and just let the viewers guess what each photo was showing? No, sorry, but at times, context is absolutely critical to appreciating a photograph.
     
  3. icassell

    icassell TPF Noob!

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    I agree with Derrel on this one. Although I have no problem with photographs that are supposed to stand on their own, I also feel that there are many photographs where background adds to the experience and enjoyment. I am one of those that frequently is annoyed by artists talking about their work, but I also understand when the information is vital.
     
  4. DScience

    DScience No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yea, just because people around here have been here forever, and have thousands of posts doesn't mean their right.

    Like usual, I also agree with Derrel. Another point I would like to make, is in some instances background info about the photo can explain other characteristics. For example, take this photo that I posted a while back:

    [​IMG]


    When I first posted it I didn't say much about the picture. However when I explained that the multicolored bokeh was produced because a large lady in a tie-dye skirt happened to walk by at the right moment.

    Now, to me this is just good information for the viewer because in my mind it makes it slightly more interesting knowing how the bokeh developed the way it did.
     
  5. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I don't think a photo should stand on its own and I don't think a photo should stand with description.
    A good photo should, idealy, contain its own appeal without the direct need for commentary - note that commentary can be as simple as a title (which most works of art have) or as indepth as a full article. There is room for both schools of thought - the important part being that the message the photographer wishes to convey is conveyed and also the reaction from the image that they desire

    Many photographer might aspire to perfect images which convey their own stories with little explination, but which also convey a specific story that the photographer wishes to tell (of course this won't be true of all viewers since we are all different, but idealy the majority).

    edit - and lets not forget that many of use often give techincal and asthetic info when we post our images here- for the result we want simply posting the image alone is not enough, it needs the commentary of its EXIF data and such else we might not get the responce we desire from our viewers
     
  6. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    A graphical representation is useless unless there is communication between it's creator and viewer.

    For there to be an adequate amount to suit the creator there may have to be a multiplier i.e. verbiage.


    pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. ;)
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2009
  7. Shockey

    Shockey TPF Noob!

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    If you want to give a description...give a description...it is your photo, there is no right or wrong.
     
  8. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    I think it really depends on the work. Personally I love photo stories and the more info the better. Cindy Sherman went with "Untitled Still 43" or whatever for most of her career. James Nachtwey and what's his name Adams wrote reams of text on their photos. I can say that if you ever get into photojournalism a caption is a must.

    Love & Bass
     
  9. patrickt

    patrickt TPF Noob!

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    I enjoy taking photographs. I'm not an artists and don't wish to be. I had an exhibit and some photos had a paragraph. For example, I had a couple of photos of Muxe from Juchitan. I explained who the Muxe were. Other photos, such as a family of clowns went without explanation.
     
  10. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If photos stand alone then so be it. If photos require a title to be properly understood then so be it too. If background information will change the interpretation of the photo than it is essential. Some photos even need to be part of a series to be properly understood.
     
  11. ottor

    ottor No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    "This is a picture of: " Isn't needed in a good photograph - you shouldn't have to tell the viewer what the picture represents... However, a short narrative about something relating to the picture "the guy wore a pistol in his pocket all the time" is just an interesting fact surrounding the 'story' of the photo..

    r
     
  12. NateWagner

    NateWagner TPF Noob!

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    One thing I find particularly interesting is that most arguments and problems that occur are as a result of miscommunication.

    There are really two ways of handling a photograph like that. One is to completely let the viewer decide what it means (and after seeing and hearing the result of inkblot tests who knows what they will come up with). Or give some sort of context to guide the person to what you are trying to help them understand or see.

    In my opinion, photojournalism type images are the most likely to need some sort of background. Rather that be the image within a set of other images working together to tell a story, or text or a title.

    There are other images, such as stock photography that there is not really much to say about the event, unless you merely want to give the technical details. In that case I would agree that the image should probably stand on its own.
     

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