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Can a photograph speak for itself?

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Roger Hicks, Sep 4, 2017.

  1. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    The latest piece on my .eu site was prompted by a common reaction to my previous piece about titles. Many people believe that a photograph should "speak for itself". But what (if anything) does this mean?


  2. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    It means, to my way of thinking, that the photograph, as a communications device, has communicated to the viewer everything that the photographer intended to communicate.

    Of course, as with any other communications medium, the clarity of expression will affect the extent of understanding.

    But how often do we use both a photograph and words to complete the communication? Your article, to which you link, uses a photograph plus a load of narrative to make your points and pose your questions.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2017
  3. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    Then why would the RPS insist on a statement of intent to accompany distinctions submissions? Surely it would be fundamental not to prompt the judges with such a giveaway?

    What Roger says is of course true, that people will interpret in line with a whole range of cultural and experiential cues, but then a title helps very little, as most words short of "A lone tree" or "Yesterday's sunset" are capable of interpretation along the same lines too.

    Any picture will speak for itself (whether it should or not), but what it says will vary in line with how any communication varies. What you wear will also speak for itself and for you, with a similarly broad range of possible meanings.
  4. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    Hi Mike.

    What you are referring to is a somewhat different situation.

    In the RPS, applicants for the membership categories of Associate (ARPS) or Fellow (FRPS) - but not Licentiate (LRPS) - do, indeed, have to include a Statement of Intent with their panel of 15 images (ARPS) or 20/21 images (FRPS). The statement of intent does not, in any sense, say what the photographs are trying to show but, rather, what the photographer is trying to achieve with the panel. These are - or at least can be - quite different things.

    By providing a statement of intent, the applicant provides the information which will allow the assessors (not judges - again a quite different concept) to assess whether the panel of photographs fulfils the objectives that the applicant set out to achieve.

    The classic one, often quoted in RPS circles, is the successful A panel that was accompanied by the ultra-short statement of intent which stated "This panel of prints is intended to demonstrate my love of photography".

    I doubt if that would work again! But one of the more common reason for an A or F submission failing is that the panel of prints - no matter how technically and artistically good - do not achieve the objectives stated in the statement of intent. It is often suggested that this happens when a photographer composes a panel and then, afterwards, tries to write a statement to cover them - rather than writing the statement first and then taking the photographs to use with it.
  5. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    Yes, only winding you up a bit. Your "everything that the photographer intended to communicate" sounds closer to trying to achieve, than trying to show.
  6. IvorCamera

    IvorCamera In the Stop Bath

    Every photograph can speak to you, just buy a newspaper and look at the pictures!
    PhotoEcosse likes this.
  7. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    OK - Maybe I should have said "everything the photographer is trying to communicate with the photograph".

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