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Tutorials - Working with Photographs and Text

When analyzing photographs be sure to consider any text that accompanies the photo, as well as the place/mode of publication or dissemination. In both cases, you may be able to find additional clues as to the meaning, significance or use of the image for either its contemporary audience or for your own research/teaching.

In general:

Consider the relationship between the visual evidence you have gathered from the details of a photograph and the emphasis or interpretation offered by accompanying text/publication info. 


Questions to consider:

  • Is there a title for the image?
  • Can you tell whether the photographer gave the image its title? Someone else?
  • How does the title focus your eyes or mid on any particular element(s) in the frame?
  • Does the title offer an interpretation of the image? What interpretation does it offer?
  • Why might the photograph be titled in this way?
  • Does the title “fit” with the visual evidence?

Text accompanying photographs

Questions to consider:

  • What type of explanatory text accompanies the photograph? (a caption, a quotation from the subject, an editorial comment)
  • Does the text offer an interpretation of the photograph and/or its subjects?
  • How does the text highlight or downplay certain elements of the image?
  • Does the textual interpretation “fit” with the visual focus of the frame?


Questions to consider:

  • If the photograph appears in a publication of some sort, what is that publication and what are its goals/emphases/missions?
  • Was the photograph created expressly for this publication?
  • Who is the author/editor/publisher of the publication? What do you know about him/her/them?
  • How is the photograph used in the publication? As illustration for points/ideas in the text? As the cover in a book without any other photographs? Other?
  • Is there any statement indicating why publisher included the photographs? What role are photographs to play in the overall message/import of the publication?