I have spoken in this Journal before about the possibility of adding my words or those of someone else to my images in the form of a book. In Surfaces and Strategies I introduced books by Seton Gordon and considered whether I might add his words to my images of the various parts of the Cuillin he visited and climbed. I have also thought about adding poetry. I write a Journal when I am photographing in a particular location. I record my thoughts about the scene, what I have done that day, how I am feeling, how the camera feels in my hands and log my photographic choices and decisions. I then create a word cloud through a software package called nvivo which generates an image of the key words I used that day. Given the autobiographical nature of my work and my wish to convey my experience of The Road to Elgol I am considering including my words in my current Work in Progress Portfolio.
I was also reminded of the work of Fay Godwin that I have previously discussed. I revisited her book Our Forbidden Land and realised that she added poetry such as that of Ted Hughes, W H Auden and Seamus Heaney so for example the following words from W H Auden from Bucolics accompanied this photograph:
“A well-kempt forest begs Our Lady’s grace;
Someone is not disgusted, or at least
Is laying bets upon the human race
Retaining enough decency to last:
The trees encountered on a country stroll
Reveal a lot about a country’s soul.
A small grove massacred to the last ash,
An oak with heart-rot, give away the show:
This great society is going smash:
They cannot fool us with how fast they go,
How much they cost each other and the gods!
A culture is no better than its woods.”
My research also led me to information about an Exhibition held in 2004 entitled Conversations: Text and Image. This in turn gave me examples of photographers that combine their images with the written word. For example, the South African photographer Jim Goldberg.
Slemmon has some useful advice about combining words and images:
“Placing words and images in the same perceptual space is not as easy as it looks. The artist has to keep track of four phenomena, not just the apparent two. First, the words have accepted, coded meanings and contexts that affect what we see in the adjacent images. Second, the words invoke mental images that might also conflict with what we see. Third, images have meanings and contexts that may alter our engagement with the adjacent words. Fourth, images can call up words in the mind of the viewer. The coordination of image/word/word/image is not easy, but the more difficult it is, the more possibilities present themselves for qualifying or clarifying the larger world.” (2004)
I have decided to try adding some of my words and those of others to the images I will make in Skye over the next couple of weeks. My tutor has suggested I use the predominant word from the previous day’s shoot as the theme for the following day’s work. I am not sure how successful this will be but I will give it a try. I will post up some images as I create my work and hopefully some words to accompany them. I am not sure where this experiment will lead but I will give it a go.
Godwin, F (1990), Our Forbidden Land, Jonathan Cape, London
Slemmons, R (2004), Conversations: Text and Image, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago