Thursday, March 10, 2022

Thoughts about titles

Titling an image by Sara Harley

I am giving a lot of thought these days to titling images. Before I pontificate, I would love for you to comment below or email me with what you think....preferably just one or two words...when you look at the image pictured above.

There was a time...not too long ago....when I thought that titling my images was a very important part of my process. I often came up with a concept or title first, then built an image around it. If I was out with my camera making photographs, a word would often come to mind while I was pressing the shutter. 

It was important to me to guide the viewer with my help them understand what I was trying to convey with my image.

Now I'm not so sure about that. Isn't it better to let the viewer decide what the image means to them? 

Let's use the image above to try to illustrate my point. 

I made this image last year and gave it the title "Forgotten".  I am currently preparing for an exhibit and plan to include this image. With everything going on in the world these days, I thought maybe more positivity was in order and considered changing the title to "Gratitude". 

The two different titles would certainly direct the viewer in two very different directions.

But why do this? Why not let the viewer decide whether it's a melancholy story or something more positive?

My current thought is to use more generic titles to allow the viewer to create their own story. I'm curious to know your thoughts about this.


  1. Interesting question. It might lead to a blog response. Or maybe not. It would be a great discussion over the tipple of choice.

    My thinking is that a title is primarily to identify a piece when it's important to not be mistaken for other work by the same creator. A gallery show, or an auction sale come to mind. That makes it easy for someone to say, 'your yellow stickies work speaks to me and I want to buy it'. I suppose that gives it a bit more dignity than 'item number 6'.

    But what I think of my image and what it says, could be quite different than the next viewer. My putting a title on it seems a little like an act of hubris, trying to guide the viewer to think what I want them to think. I know even looking at my own work that what I think it says can vary quite dramatically from time to time, even in as short a time as overnight. Sometimes that second thought is, 'what was I thinking?!'

    Even the artist's statement can be problematic, even if it's specifically referencing what inspired a particular item. Many of them are so pretentious and faux high-brow. Why can't they say, I was having coffee with a buddy and was struck by the interplay of light and shadow on the greasy mug handle so I did a bunch of them.

  2. The first word that came to mind was 'stark'. Then, when I looked again, 'solitude' sprang to mind. You've gone in a more positive light with 'gratitude'.
    What's the saying 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' - with images (as sometimes with poems), I don't usually see what the author sees because I come to the table with my own perspectives. So I would be more inclined toward an author using a generic title...
    That being said, it's always interesting to read a title (such as your 'gratitude') and try to see another's point of view. Some would be easy (like your TRANSITION from a few months ago), others would take a little more thought, which would lead to dialogue...and does not every author wish for their work to generate thought and discussion?
    BTW - love the image. It would make an awesome cover for a novel!!!

  3. I gave this one the title... Amen.
    I see the point of letting the viewer decide. It's a good way to go; however, I'm going to go sit on the other limb and say that I like to be led by the title.


It's great to hear from you! I appreciate your comments.