Titles in fine art photography

July 3, 2018

"the big hush", Makrygialos - Greece, 2014

 

Many times in the past I've come across varying opinions on whether a fine art photo should bare a title or not. Some approach the matter from a technical view, others from an aesthetics view. For me, a photographic artwork is considered to be complete only when baring a fitting title. On the contrary, the general consensus is that a photo should usually be left untitled as a title can often render the photo "biased" in its meaning and given message.

 

The truth is that in fine art photography, the artworks created may have a multitude of interpretations (depending on the viewer) but from the creator's view, the meaning can only be one. It ought to be the sum of all parts of the frame, the reason that led someone to make the photo or even the aftermath, the end feeling of it. In any case, a title is still a crucial part of the photographer's view on the frame and it depicts in a few words (or a single word) his close relation to the frame.

 

There are various types of titles and the structure of them can lead to a different approach of a photo. Let's take for example a single-word title such as "remorse" or "foreshadowed". These titles are designed to shroud a fine art photo with a sense of mystery and a mostly subjective interpretation. On the other hand, there are some other titles that are called "descriptive" and they are designed in such a way as to describe a certain occasion, emotion or state. "small craft on a milk sea" is such a title. It describes the difference in volume between the subject and the surrounding part of the frame. "gift of silence" is another example of this, a more emotion-oriented title this time.  

 

However, there are also different views on the matter. Many photographers prefer to leave their photos untitled and let the viewer decide upon it. This follows the stance that the viewer should not be prompted to think of an artwork in a specific way, the viewer ought to be free to make a personal interpretation of the theme so that the end impact can be "molded" in a subjective way.

 

If we as creators of photographic artworks submit to the latter view, without even noticing it, we renounce the very basis of photography, which is, true and direct self-expression, the making of pure and unbridled visual emanations of our inner self. To me, photography ought to firstly succeed in self-expression and then opt to make contact with the viewer. To this regard, the title should also be part of this process and thus reflect our inner self in written form. We are making photography firstly according to our own needs and then we eventually feel the need to communicate this to the people around us.

 

Also, those titles should be perceived as fragments of the photographer's profile, so the viewers may have a thorough idea of why a photographer makes such works, what he seeks to express, what he feels through them, what are his motives that led to the making of such photographic artworks etc.

 

So, giving a title to a photo is a crucial part of it and the creator should be in complete control. The photographer makes a visual story through his artwork, thus its title is about the whole story told in a single or a few words. After all, every precious thing in life has a title...

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© 2019 - Teo Kefalopoulos