Picture of the Day

posted by Bridget on 26 April 2012

Should photography rely on words to give it meaning?

Last week Jonathan Jones', art critic of Guardian listed Guy Moreton's "Unrecounted" photography exhibition on his recommended listing blog.

The entry was enigmatic, merely saying the show was "photography on philosophical themes". Intrigued I clicked the link and found some more enigmatic sentences on the Solent Gallery's website...

In "Unrecounted" Moreton re-examines the work of the artist Kurt Schwitters, philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and writer W.G Sebald, each of whom made major breakthroughs in their field. Moreton's visual practice imaginatively reinvents the way major thinkers have studied nature, incorporating native landscapes to express their complex thinking and personalities."

guy moreton 1

On reading this I thought, that's a big ask, can visual language really get close to expressing the inner thoughts of philosophers? On see the photographs, perhaps because I had read the blurb, I began to wonder about Wittengenstein's choice of landscape in which to walk and Sebald's attachment to East Anglia.

guy moreton 2

But I was left with the question, what if I had seen these images without knowing about the artist's impulse and intention. Would I just have dismissed them as pretty or not so pretty landscapes of the English and European countryside?

So the question is, should photography, or indeed any visual imagery, engage us first through a visual language, be it in the use of colour, composition or subject etc. Or is it OK to rely on the context to come first in order to engage our gaze?

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