Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Photography: The big secret (Part 3)

The Angel Inn - Image © Berny Howden

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series of articles I illustrated the use of words to generate an emotional response to an image and also using words to fix or alter the context of an image. I'm going to end the series on words in images with several images each using words as a visual device in very different ways. I'll discuss why and how I think they work.

The first image of the Angel Inn works on multiple levels. The interaction between the word 'Angel' and the glowing white of the building. The fact it's an oasis in the middle of a desolate decaying landscape. To me an almost subliminal message is the inference that this is a shrine to alcohol, seeming to be offering drink as a form of hope or salvation in a hopeless place. It lead me to wonder at what cost? So I felt it seems a nostalgic image but one with a very modern and pertinent message none the less.

Chaos - Image © Berny Howden

The next image 'Chaos' is of a young boy and is an exemplary example of the use of words to create a strong emotional response in the observer. It's also a great piece of social photography. I can't give a concrete definition of the meaning of words in this image and that is part of its appeal to me. The reference to Chaos asks more questions than it answers. Does he cause chaos? Is he in turmoil? Why did the photographer choose to position the boy this way? Even simple things like is it his picture? Or what is he saying? Consequently this is a photo I've come back to time and time again. The single word 'Chaos' and its effect on the images context is a large part of the reason. So once again a great example of the power of one little word. If I am lucky perhaps Berny Howden who took the above two photographs will comment and shed some light on this most enigmatic of photos.

Cancer - Image © David Toyne

I took the above image 'Cancer' on a wander around Manchester on a dreary windy day. Landscape was not an option. I found the open dustbin and its grizzly contents an interesting thing to juxtapose with a warning about Cancer. Cancer consumes in a horrible manner and so do we. To this planet we are a cancer. We blank out fear of cancer much like we blank out the thoughts about our own conspicuous waste and consumption. I'm not entirely sure if the image works as some of the connections it makes are not clear to me yet but I do find it morbidly fascinating.

When Shut we've moved - Image © David Toyne

Last but not least a simple bit of fun to show that if you keep your eyes open you can see some hilarious and farcical things written all over the world. People quite accidentally make the most amusing visual jokes all the time. Don't forget to exploit these opportunities to create your own creative work. It's what arts all about.

Creative Training Sign - Image © David Toyne

The last image is just a small afterthought. Words are just symbols with meaning as are arrows, cartoons, graffiti and any number of other visual props. The last image mixes the idea of training with lack of direction using the arrows and words combined. Expressing concepts and feelings using words and symbols can be abstract but also great fun with very rewarding and unexpected results. So get out there and make something unusual and beautiful...

Note: Warmest thanks to Berny Howden for giving me permission to use the first two images in this article. It was a very generous of him to do so. Check out more of his great social photography at the link in the article you'll be glad you did.


David Toyne said...

Well Berny got back to me about the definitive view on the first two pictures:

Great article.. I will update you on Heaven sent 1st.. It was taken in an area of Birkenhead where demolition was in progress and hope was minimal, but tragically in a depressed area in their wisdom the planners left standing The catholic church and the pub so when I did it I thought it was a tragic comedy (no Hope)so you where spot on, somewhwere to drown your sorrows and somewhere to repent... 2nd Chaos I was in a special needs school and was photographing all the children trying to learn in all aspects of life that we take for granted( I also did a series on elderly people too) when I saw this child causing chaos, he was a bubbly mischevious child, he came down towards me and pointed to the painting and then pointed to his chest as if to say I did that, and as he walked past he stood and made the sign that I managed to take, I thought about it later onand by association it also said to that there is chaos in my life but I am happy.. This at the time made me feel like the victim..Chaos kid.

James said...

Cracking stuff here my friend. You've obviously given this some very careful thought, and you've expressed your thoughts in a very coherent and well-thought out way.

You ever thought about a career as a journo? ;o)

berny said...

I would have loved to do a series in national geographic, but I've left it too late, now I just do it for the love of it..