Exercise 4.4 (p.80): Images Without Captions


Over the space of a few weeks gather newspapers that you can cut up, preferably including a mixture of different political points of view. Have a look through and cut out some images without their captions. You could choose advertising images or news. For each image, write three or four different captions that enable you to bend the image to different and conflicting points of view.What does this tell you about the power of text and image combinations?

Now write some text that re-contextualises these images and opens them up to alternative interpretations. Write some notes in your learning log about this exercise. How might you use what you’ve learnt to add a new dimension to your own work?


These photos of a Russian model Viktoria Odintcova has been spread all over the social media from her own Instagram account to newspapers and blogs.  The photographs and even videos of the model were posted showing her dangling from one of the world’s  tallest skyscrapers in Dubai when it opened in 2013 with no safety gear!

Odintcova’s photographs showed her leaning backwards over the edge of the skyscraper clanged to the hand of a male assistant.  The model was ordered by the Dubai police to sign a written statement pledging not to repeat the stunt.

The same photographs of the model was given different captions on different blogs and newspapers:

  • The National blogs:  Russian model Viktoria Odintcova risks life for dangerous Dubai selfie.
  • Emirates 247:  New images released of model hanging off 306m skyscraper in Dubai.
  • London Evening Standard:  Russian Instagram model Viktoria Odintcova hauled before police after dangling from Dubai skyscraper.
  • Gulf News:  Model’s death-defying stunt in Dubai goes viral.
  • The Sun:  HEIGHT OF STUPIDITY Russian model risks her life to get the perfect snap by dangling off a 1,000ft Dubai skyscraper with NO safety rope.
  • The Telegraph:  The moment Russian model Viki Odintcova risks her life in daredevil Dubai photoshoot.

I thought of giving it other captions such as:

  • Reckless Act by a Russian Model.
  • The Price People Pay to Get Famous.
  • A photoshoot on one of the highest skyscrapers in Dubai.
  • Pursuit of Fame.

All of these captions would give the same meaning to the true story behind the photograph.  The captions and text are assisting us in getting the image to float in the right direction.  However if my captions were something like:

  • Security Lapse in one of the Tallest Skyscrapers in the World.
  • Fake Viral Pictures of a Russian Model on one of the Tallest Skyscrapers in Dubai.

The story will be twisted to a different direction and the meaning of the image will change.  It is like having an image of an apple and calling it a sin instead of an apple.

Captions and texts can lead away from a photograph and take the viewers far beyond the image.

An example is a photograph of a group of three woman where one appear to have a pair of knickers around her ankles. The photograph was published in The Sun Newspaper on the 21st October 2009.  The photograph was taken advantage of by various internet sites and blogs.  The photograph is credited to the Wales News Service and had the headline: “Booze ban for binge hotspot”.  On The Daily Mail the same photograph was used not pixellated accompanied by the title: “The streets of no shame: The shocking picture that epitomises Britain’s ladette culture”.

This photograph has been used to represent the downsides of drinking in public and outlines the decision by the local authority to allow the Wales police to arrest anyone who drinks in public places.  In a follow up article, The Sun quoted that the woman in the photograph was not drunk and the knickers were not hers but a joke she shared with the group she was with.  Roland Barthes defines this type of text as “relay”.

Bibliography / References:

Alan Markham (2009).  How Does Text Shape the Understanding of Photographs?  [online].  Alan Markham Photography.  Available from:  http://www.alanmarkham.co.uk/Essays/image_text.php  [Accessed 23, February 2017].

George L. Dillon (2000). Art and the Semiotics of Images: Three Questions About Visual Meaning [online]. Available from:  http://faculty.washington.edu/dillon/rhethtml/signifiers/sigsave.html [Accessed 23, February 2017].

Martinec R., Salway A. A System for Image-Text Relations in New (and Old) Media [online]. Available from: http://www.bbrel.co.uk/pdfs/06Martinec-Salway.pdf [Accessed 23, February 2017].

Thomas Tallis School.  Text and Image [online].  Tallis Photography.  Available from:  http://tallisphotography.weebly.com/text-and-image.html  [Accessed 23, February 2017].


3 thoughts on “Exercise 4.4 (p.80): Images Without Captions

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s