Just a slight clarification for anyone who might be misunderstanding: in the "Guideposts" post, what I'm suggesting is that you think about how captions, titles, labels, and accompanying explanatory text function, and how they affect or might affect your work before or after it is made; because even not making a decision is a decision, and lack of clarity about meaning generally makes photographers' work weaker.
I'm also curious as to whether being conscious about such things can help guide our work when we're out making it; maybe for some people? For instance, if I recall correctly, Robert Adams said that when he began the work that eventually became From the Missouri West, he assigned himself one rule, which was that every picture had to have some evidence of the presence of people. He made that decision as a conscious antidote to the overdone "pristine wilderness" mode of many Western landscapes. That kind of thing is what I mean by "conceptual guidepost."
If I were a teacher (which I guess I will never be again), one assignment I'd give my students would be to present three pictures that need captions and three pictures that don't....
P.S. Oh, and pictures with captions have a long history in art photography, too. Jim Goldberg and Duane Michaels are the first ones that pop to mind, and I'm sure I could think of more. It might be an essentially photojournalistic convention, but it's far from foreign to other kinds of photography.
P.P.S. Another tangentially relevant news item: I heard recently that people are now searching through old abandoned "antique store" photos, finding the ones with names on the back, and then posting them for sale on the Internet with the names listed. Then, people who are Googling their own names or the names of a relative find them, and are more likely to buy them.
Some highly improbable reunions are happening via such methods. For instance, a relative recently purchased online a postcard of a local landmark (a hotel), and discovered when the postcard arrived that it had actually been written from one of her relatives to another one! How it ever came to be in the seller's possession she of course had no idea.
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Featured Comments from:
Mark Cotter: "As a photography teacher, I'm going to steal that assignment title for my students next year! Thank you."
Ed: "Well, some photographers give meaning to beauty using a caption...turning the beauty into horror. One example is Eva Leitolf, who is well known for her beautiful pictures of mundane places. But when you read the captions these places are far from mundane."
Mike replies: Great example. You certainly can't grasp the meaning of her work without the captions.
JG: "With regard to captions on 'art' photos, I recall seeing several of Phil Borges' gorgeous portraits from Tibet hanging in a gallery back in 1997 and he went so far as to stencil captions onto the glass of the shadow-box frames, which I thought worked very well for that particular body of work. (I also wish that I had purchased a few of them, too, because at the time, most were in the $500–750 range and even the most expensive was 'only' $1,500, all of which is a fraction of what they would sell for today. Plus, of course, the fact that they were absolutely stunning photos, period.) That said, I personally am of the school that a truly great photo doesn't need a caption or sometimes even a title (which is not to say that such things and fancy frames don't add something to the experience of viewing the photo, of course....)"