The Case For Not Writing On Your Photos

I’ve seen recently some very good photos where the artist has taken the liberty to write on them either in the borders or in the frames themselves.  I don’t personally like it, and I’d like to take a minute to explain why I don’t.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to take a creative writing class.  I learned a lot from that class, but the most important thing I took away was: when you’re narrating a story you don’t want to tell people what’s going on, you want to show them.  So, if you’re writing a story about a girl who’s depressed, you don’t want to say, “She was feeling depressed.”  Instead you want to say, “She was curled up alone in the corner of her cold dark room, crying uncontrollably.”  This allows the reader to picture it in their mind and discover for themselves that the character is feeling depressed.

I feel that the same holds true for any creative art, including photography.  When you write on your photos, you’re consciously trying control or direct the viewer to look at and interpret your artwork exactly the way that you want them to.  You’re telling the story and not showing it.

Instead what you should do, if there’s a point you really want to get across, is find a way to incorporate it into your art in subtle ways.  If they still don’t get it, then you’re doing something wrong and you should keep trying until you get the reaction you’re looking for.  Which is not to say that words should play no part in your work, but that they should not be so overbearing that they detract from the art itself.

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