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A nineteen year old with a camera in rural Norfolk. http://rosajoy.com

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Two cents on Typography

from a photographer’s point of view.

Anonymous asked:

Annabel, don't you ever feel like you are stealing other peoples photos? Even if you do credit, you are taking their work and making it into your own, especially crediting yourself in the typography. I just think that that's not very kind of you, and maybe people don't want cliché quotes all over their own photographs, which might mean something personally to them? Please explain your logic in doing so...

Annabel, this made me think.


A little while ago I came across a photograph of mine on a tumblr’s blog. That itself wasn’t out of the ordinary; tumblr is the fastest and easiest way I’ve found of spreading inspiration across the internet, and happily I often find my photographs appearing on blogs there. The difference on this day was that the photograph I found, while being mine, had been altered.

Typography is a controversial subject for youth photographers. A lot of people I know absolutely hate the idea of their work being modified or changed in any way. When I found my photograph on Annabel’s blog I spent some time deciding whether or not I was comfortable with the idea of typographies, and discovered three issues of potential concern.

The first, and possibly biggest issue for photographers, is the matter of crediting. Typographers who take an image from somebody else and do not state where it has come from are undeniably selfish. Equally all images on Flickr are copyrighted, so at worse they could in fact be breaking the law. The image rights remain with me, and thus it is down to me to determine how they can and cannot be used.

Luckily for me, my photograph had been properly credited (and that evening Annabel also messaged me to check it was alright for her to use my photographs) but even so, to some photographers, typography can feel like “stealing”. They take power away from the original image producer over the context their image is displayed in. No one likes to be stolen from, and no one likes to feel powerless. This is why crediting in typography is so incredibly important.

The importance of crediting means that in my view there should always be more than a small, anonymous ‘photo credit’ link at the bottom of a typography. Photographers should be fully named and have equal credit prominence with the typographer. After all, we did half the work. If my work is used anywhere, this is what I mostly insist on.

The second issue is based around taste. Photographers often complain that typographies are “ugly”, using “cliché quote” and “garish colours”. Granted, I have found images of mine edited as typographies in ways which I wouldn’t have edited them - but isn’t that the same for any piece of artwork? There are plenty of photographs on Flickr which aren’t to my taste, which don’t use tones which I like or which focus on subjects I have no interest in. They may seem “ugly” to me. But to others they must be opposite – certainly the photographer themselves must like their own image.

More likely I think, when photographers claim typographies to be “ugly”, they are in fact not acknowledging the truth – which is the third issue of typography. That is, photographs are personal. Extraordinarily so. And so, to have somebody else not just look and interpret a photograph, but in fact transform it entirely, physically, and present it with a whole new meaning, can be distressing. Photographers also criticize typographies because the quotes used can be “cliché” and therefore “dumb down” the meanings of the original image.

Here, I am torn. Yes, my photographs are personal. No, I do not want my image “dumbed down”. But I do want people to enjoy them and to interpret them and to find meanings in them which I didn’t necessarily know could be found there.

Someone asked me, in relation to another typographer who uses my work, "do you really want a twelve-year-old spewing all over your photographs?” But the truth is that I spewed when I was twelve. I’m still spewing, if I’m honest. What is a photograph like this if not emotional vomit? No, I don’t particularly want quotes from Twilight attached to one of my photographs, but – and here is the crux – if that is how she interpreted it then that is ok.

You cannot tell people how to interpret the things you create. This was something which blew my mind when I realised it in relation to literature when I was fifteen.

Everybody is entitled to see or think whatever they like about your work. They are entitled to read it differently to the way you read it, to have it bring to mind any quote or any memory or any feeling they so wish. Each person on this planet is different, and so each person bring to every experience something different – and that includes the experience of looking at a photograph. As I said to Annabel, art is wonderful because it is as thought each piece has hundreds of different lives.

This is why typographies, even those you consider ugly, even those which do not interpret your work the way you interpret it, are valid.

(All four by Annabel at followthatway.tumblr.com.)

1 comment:

  1. I like your thoughts on typography, because I do agree with most (if not all) of them. (: