Blog Arts

Messages From The Visual World

By El Ratón Automático-The 3Nines Arts

As a writer and a journalist I love text, I love words, I love the process of writing and of selecting how the words are put together to form sentences, paragraphs, stories, fact, fiction...

Narrative is, for me, the way a story unfolds, and I always have this feeling (rightly or wrongly) that we ( as a human collective) are simply making things up as we go along, no matter how we dress it up textually or visually.

Narrative is also often used as a reference to how a political party reveals its policies and presents them to the world (sugar coated I would imagine). But it is also a word used with reference to visual interpretation. We explain what we see with words.

How do we read – an apt word – a photograph? It might be better to say how do we interpret the narrative of a photograph? The truth is we will probably read a photograph via a filter from our own experiences and values, and. Ultimately that narrative we have is made up of words inside our heads. This means, of course, we may all have differing opinions on what we are actually looking at, of what is happening in a photograph, and we might have our own ideas as to what the narrative actually is.

Sometimes, of course, we can get a helping hand. Text often cuts across art. The visual and the word combine in the frame to help us build and understand that narrative. The text often altering how we might have, initially, interpreted the photograph. Try removing text from an image and see how significantly the whole contextual reference and the story of the photograph alters.

No one, of course, can say definitively, what the narrative of a particular photograph might be, but once text is added to the mix a new element is introduced to the whole which can lead us in different directions.

©Hugh Rawson - Give Love

The above is a great and intriguing photograph by street photographer Hugh Rawson. A man stands in shadow smoking a cigarette while behind him and above him on a huge blue screen, a giant pinkish-red neon love heart states : 'Give Love'.

I immediately thought two things when I first saw this shot. Is the man enjoying his ciggie at all aware of the huge sign behind and above him? And, secondly, what exactly does 'Give Love' mean? Offer love to people, maybe even strangers, as one might donate money to charity?

In many ways this is a wonderfully composed photograph by Rawson. The brightly-lit colours contrasting with the mysterious smoking man silhouette. Who is the man, what is he doing there, is the sign 'Give Love' asking for donations...of love?

'Give Love', sounds very hippyesque. A slogan that requests we 'Give Love' as opposed to selling, or even 'making' love? If 'Love' was 'Nike' would the neon slogan be 'Just Give It'?

©David Gleave - Why The Constant Lies

David Gleave produces a great portrait of a woman in sunglasses presenting, I think, an anti-establishment face to the world. But, the first thing I notice is that the text – over her right shoulder as we look at the photograph – Why The Constant Lies, unexpectedly, does not have a question mark? It is, therefore, a statement of fact – Why All The Constant Lies – but I still, desperately want to put a question mark up there.

Gleave's image resonates. I love how he has composed this. The text and the girl both pout rebellion (can you 'pout' rebellion?). But, if you can, the image does.

An intriguing photograph it is, of course, open to differing interpretations, and narratives, but it is difficult to see past the 'Why The Constant Lies'. Note : the keyword here is 'constant', which takes me in the direction of a general political protest?

On the other hand, the girl could be making a statement to an ex-lover, an ex-lover with an eye for other women, a gambling problem, or who is prone to too many nights out with the lads, and that is so passe.

Of course, the girl might just be there, standing beside the text, an innocent bystander?

©Pascal Colin - Les Nadar

A woman glances through half-closed eyes at the camera. She is beneath a poster of a Pierrotesque clown. The poster proclaims : Les Nadar, une legende photographique in French. It clearly alludes to the photographic work of Gaspard – Felix Tournachon, journalist, novelist and photographer, also known as 'Nadar'.

This is a brilliantly conceived photograph by Pascal Colin. The woman caught in that instant she first becomes aware of the photographer, as the photographer depresses the button and captures the image. So much so that we can clearly see the wiring between the photographer and his subject within the frame.

The photograph has great depth and is almost existential in its subject matter. It also resonates as much with photographic history as it does with contemporary art and we read the narrative as we scan the poster and the lady with the half closed eyes.

We interpret the world through visual representation described by the words inside our heads. We locate and decipher the image, but more than this we do so with words flowing from our minds and onto paper or from our mouths. We create, or attempt to create a meaning to what we are looking at in a stream of consciousness fashion.

What does 'Give Love' actually mean, and who is the mysterious man in shadow smoking a cigarette. Who is 'Why The Constant Lies' aimed at? Who is the woman in sunglasses and what does she have to do with the 'Why The Constant Lies' slogan?

The poster reminds me, immediately, of Pierrot the clown, Les Nadar locates the photographer and allows us to start to decipher what this is all about. The lady gives substance to the contemporary meaning of the work.

Try and imagine these photographs without the text messages 'Give Love', 'Why The Constant Lies and 'Les Nadar'. Without words we have a new context and therefore a new visual narrative. Nevertheless, in our minds we still fish around for words to make sense and give meaning to what we are looking at.

What is your narrative?

Paolo Pellegrin. Un’antologia
GERVASIO SÁNCHEZ, Fotógrafo, Periodista y Fotoperi...

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Monday, 26 October 2020
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