Images, sans paroles [Addendum]

Further to the matter of images and explanations, I had a real-life experience this week that I think is germane to the issue.

Read about it here.

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3 thoughts on “Images, sans paroles [Addendum]

  1. A great example why image and word or meaning so powerfully complement each other. Just like your writing always enriches your images. I am for it, without a need to make it a rule as sometimes there are no words – yet, or ever. I do favor complexity and the intimacy of personal revelations and you do a great job with those. Thanks for being so outspoken and sensitive in your world view.

  2. I think you already know that I LOVE the combination of words and images. I’m glad you raise the subject again, because I have continued thinking about it since you wrote your first blog on this subject, and I do have more to say. I appreciate artists who use words in their paintings or photographs, and I very much enjoy good writing, good pictures, and even more, good writing related to good pictures, and good pictures related to good writing. Writing can be mundane, beautiful, trite, edgy, accessible, opaque, and just plain bad…and the same goes for photographs. Some photographs DO speak for themselves. Others are meaningless without a context or an explanation. Words and images can complement and enrich each other. I think the idea that photographs must “speak for themselves” is out of date and no longer even interesting. Artists are blending genres, fusing musical styles and traditions, expanding beyond the limits of categories or tired genres. There is energy in multi-media installations, performance art, theatre that becomes dance, dance that merges with acrobatics, acrobatics that become theatre.

    I am intrigued by Pat Hathaway’s response–that the same questions can be asked of poetry. I LOVE to hear poets talk about their work. I love to read about poets’ lives, about why they chose this or that subject, about their influences. If I go to a poetry reading and the poet only reads her or his poems and doesn’t talk about them, I feel cheated. I could get as much from just reading the poems myself. For me the PURPOSE of attending a live reading by a poet is to hear him or her talk about the work, after which I can appreciate it more fully and understand it better. Sure, it has a “life” on the page. Sure, there is not right or wrong interpretation. But especially when I don’t feel I fully understand a poem, I want to know what the poet had in mind, why she chose this subject, what she feels about the work now, and maybe even what she had for breakfast before she wrote it. Why not?

    I kept a blog while I was in Africa this past October, and I added a few stories to it after the trip. For me, the most powerful entry in that blog is this one: http://kendallight.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/tebohos-great-trouble/ (sorry, I don’t know how to make that a link in a comment). The two pictures with the story don’t, I think, speak for themselves. The second photograph, of the back of Teboho’s head as he drives his taxi, would have been a throwaway if it weren’t for the words. The words are necessary to tell the story. But the words without the pictures would have much less impact. Every time I read that blog post with its two mediocre pictures, I am moved again to tears. It’s not the pictures that move me. It’s not the words alone. It’s both, working together. I am choosing only to reference my own work because it’s what I know best, and maybe others don’t respond to my work as I do, and that’s fine with me. I don’t need to control how others receive either my images or my words. But I feel they work together, if they work at all.

    • Photography can be used to serve many purposes: to entertain, to inform and to incite to action, just to list a few. Your images in Teboho’s story serve their particular purpose; to give a face, and an identity to the person about whom you are writing; and they do that admirably, complementing the words and emphasising the point that this is a real person, with a real life and real problems. I agree with you that in this instance, the power and the impact lies in the combination of word and image; and anyone who reads this story must now feel that he or she knows this man. And stories about people we know invariably affect us more than stories about total strangers.

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