If you put an image and some words on a page it tends be the image that captures the attention first. Common examples: newspaper photos with captions; advertising posters with their catchphrases and slogans; any painting with a title; cartoons. The text is often secondary. This is particularly true of photographs: accompanying titles often seem very lame. All the effort has gone into the photograph and the text is a mere afterthought. If you are trying to combine word and photo more creatively (which seems to be the direction I am heading in) this is a serious technical problem.
I’m by no means any kind of expert on the art of the Japanese haiga or Chinese calligraphy but one solution to this problem used in both countries was to make the text in the same media as the image. So a brush painting would be accompanied by text written with a brush. The text might also be integrated with the image. The picture to the right shows both solutions.
I have read also that the characters are often indecipherable at least in part so that the text may surrender explicit meaning to visual effect. Something like below, maybe, where the lines and circles of the text seem to mirror the shape of the fruit and the branches but hardly seem legible.
If you are going to put text with a photo creatively then none of these solutions is open to you – immediately anyway. Text cannot be created in the original media whether film or digital; and it is hard to play with the 26 letters of the alphabet in the way that seems possible with ideograms. Digital fonts preclude it – though there are digital freehand options available which might work with practice. You can also scratch prints though the results that I have seen have rarely appealed to me.
So I am starting to experiment. My aim is to fuse word and photo so that the result goes beyond either. For the moment this is a digital project but I have plans to move beyond that.
I start with a photo of mine which has been haunting my psyche recently.
The following lines eventually appeared in my head to accompany it.
a darkling trace
The question was how to marry them. There are several possibilities below.
These are all options which could be used with certain combinations of text and image. My main hesitation about them is that, inevitably, some of the photo is obscured. I might even go farther than that and say that the integrity of the photo is compromised. It becomes a hybrid.
So here is another possibility.
There are numerous other possibilities but if you think too hard the whole thing eventually disappears into its own socks. My general aim though is to get the impact of word and picture to be more simultaneous so as to even out their impact. I am attending a letterpress/bookmaking course at the wonderful Hot Bed Press before Christmas and that may give me further ideas……