Relationship between Image and Text – Learning from photographers and artists

For this exercise, we were asked to refer to two photographers works – Barbara Kruger’s montages of photography and text, plus Gillian Wearing’s Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say. I also read a bit about the relationship between text and image and what various artists in different fields had to say about it.

Both Gillian Wearing’s experiments with inviting strangers and making them write their innermost thoughts and documenting them; along with Barbara Kruger’s montages of photography where her use of black and white imagery has been juxtaposed with strong bold red graphics are both examples of deeper issues of society being highlighted in a manner where it catches one’s attention. Both their works are thought-provoking and deep in their meanings. Both are simple yet extremely profound in showcasing the reality of our society. They force the viewer to go beyond just the visual and see the underlying hidden, deeper, darker meaning behind the images that on the first appearance would just seem like normal images.

In Gillian Wearing’s work, she has made strangers write whatever they have in their hearts, on pieces of paper and she has photographed various people holding these signs. A normal smiling person could be holding a disturbing sign saying either their state of mind or a thought that they believe in. Looking at her work, one realizes the uncomfortable reality that no one seems to notice on a superficial level. The masks that we adorn as human beings are so perfect that we forget what the reality actually is. The signs that these people are holding vary from just a thought at the moment, the current situation of the country, something personal and emotional about them and can make the viewer think beyond than what just the snapshot of a person might have conveyed. A smile may hide your inner thoughts but an image even though it might be smiling might take an altogether different meaning if the accompanying text is saying something else. This sort of work might have different effects on the viewer – from sadness to laughter to pain even and might be extremely disturbing in nature too.

Barbara Kruger is best known for her large works in alternating white-on-red or white-on-black patterns, that varies from pointing at the current socioeconomic climate of the country or talk about socially relevant messages and current market values.

Both these styles appear to be strong documentary or advertising styles of photography where both images and text are blended together to form a dual media outcome that is non-traditional in approach and combines the strengths of both mediums to highlight and put across a stronger message than what would have been otherwise.

Photography is a powerful medium and combined with other mediums can result in some unique and thought-provoking art. New definitions of art are evolving on a daily basis and in order for a work to stand out or for a particular vision that a photographer might have, new methods can be more powerful and combining more than one medium can result in an impact that the artist might envision for his message to be put across to the world.

I read a very interesting article by Marie Anna Lee about the relationship between text and visual or rather the contradiction between text and visual. It talks about the text in a manner which may confuse the viewer about its meaning but when juxtaposed with a visual makes total sense. The context becomes crucial in the marriage of the two.

Interestingly, textual context along with a visual also leaves the viewer to understand its message on their own or in other words such an art would be open to diverse and varied interpretations by its audience. What becomes important in this is the combination of the two – text and visual both – stand alone, neither of them might make sense but what becomes crucial is the effect of both combined. What is it that they are creating together. Here, we must understand that neither the visual nor the text is more important. What is important is the successful blending of the two and how they together combine or interact with one another to create an impact.

References – 

  11. (interesting read)

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