For the viewer, the meaning of the print
is his meaning. If I try to impose mine by intruding descriptive titles,
I insult the viewer, the print, and myself. Ansel Adams
Many great photographers either didn't name their
photos or gave them purely descriptive titles. The pull quote above makes
Ansel Adams' views fairly clear. Edward Weston did caption his photos,
but with names like Eroded Rock, Cow Tree Bark
and Pepper #30 I think it's fair to say that he wasn't trying
to add any meaning to his images.
I have always been of two minds about captioning photographs.
On the one hand I think it is possible to indicate to the viewer my thoughts
about the image with an appropriate caption. On the other hand, as Adams
says, why should I impose my opinions on the viewer. Nevertheless I do
caption my photos and believe that the caption should, ideally, add some
value. It should at least give the viewer an inkling of what I think about
The photo Tolkien's Trees is a
good example. Why Tolkien's Trees? Having read The Hobbit'
and Lord of The Rings' several times, I consider myself an
avid J R R Tolkien fan. This grotto, with its twisted trees and running
brook, just reminded me of Middle Earth. No scene in particular, but I
can imagine Gollum in such a place, admiring his Precious'.
As soon as I saw the first working print I knew what I would call this
This is a good title as an incident in my gallery testifies.
One day two girls, around ten years of age, were looking at this photo.
One said "You can see why he's called it Tolkien's Trees.
The other agreed. If you can strike a chord with a couple of ten-year-olds
you're doing pretty well with the naming of your photos.
I got it right on this occasion, but I admit that I
don't always do so. However the alternative of calling everything
"Untitled" is not an option for me.
Sometimes I know what the caption will be the instant
I see an image, while at other times I rack my brains for ages trying
to think of a good one. It's not uncommon for the release of an image
to be delayed by weeks for lack of a caption. Occasionally I give up and,
in despair, call an image Three Rocks and a Trunk or some
such. Normally this is an indication that the image is not one of my best.