Photography Needs Great Caption

JUST the other day, coincidently one day before the World Photography Day last year, I spent a moment reminding myself of how much photography was growing in this city and how much the efforts, however, are not doing enough justice to the art of storytelling.

In my district alone, just in the past twenty-four months, I have met a number of young passionate— at times “professional”—photographers. Some are good, to say the least, some others simply have good cameras. Others don’t have the equipment; waiting to get rich someday, and buy a Canon (or a Nikon?) then start doing the thing. But in the meantime, they fall in love with every other person they see holding a camera but will never tell you.

Two years ago, I felt compelled to agree with an argument put forward by one of my favourite storytellers. (I won’t state his name but I want to call him Figo, for purposes of clarity.) In the early 2000s, he wrote a small passage on photography in one of his books and he was asked to comment on it during an interview. “Photographs can’t tell a story properly,” he told the interviewer. “They can tell a moment, they can tell a second.”

He went on to explain that, “They can tell you what it looked like in front of the camera when the shutter went down, but you don’t necessarily know what all the elements in there are. And context, the depth of it, the going back, the backstory, the fore-story; how people talk about it is part of that story.”

Figo’s point is not to minimise the importance of photography in storytelling but to question its ethical limits and how people misrepresent them:

It’s not that the photography lies—I am not a believer in that—whether the photograph is wrong, or it can’t be used as evidence; but it requires a caption.

At a time when almost everyone is holding a camera in their hands for a significant amount of time each day, getting all of us to understand the importance of great captioning, and adequate descriptions, is a necessity.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.



Enter your email address below to receive daily recommendations of must-reads from our editors.

Leave a Reply