The Written Word

Pictures speak differently than words.  They tell us about the sociohistorical context of its making while the words or captions are used to help simplify and identify the elements of the scene and it provides further information and description of the image.

American photographer Duane Michals born in February 18, 1932 is known for his hand written words on images, photo sequences (cinema frame by frame format) and montages.  The writing plays a significant role in Michals photography.  Michals do not believe that photographs is worth a thousand words, as it would not tell much about the subject he portrays.  He states that sixty percent of his work is photography while the rest is writing.  His text communicate narratives in a poetic, tragic and humorous way such as his work “Grandpa Goes to Heaven”.



©Duane Michals

Jim Goldberg is a Magnum photographer known for his project “Raised By Wolves”.  The project combines photographs, text, drawings, movie stills, snapshots, and diaries that document the lives of runaway teenagers in America.  I found the video quite disturbing but I think it should be as it conveyed the message but it was hard for me to watch.

His other work that strikes me though is “Open See”.  Golberg photographed the lives of immigrants and those hoping to have a better life in Europe.  His photographs were written on by the people whom he portrayed in their own language which makes the viewer more curious about what is written.


Goldberg portrayed the man against a white wall and outlined him in red while the young man has written all over his portrait in his own language.  Goldberg’s photographs are mysterious and self questioning, he tends to approach his photographs using variety of mediums.  Here we can see how he incorporated text with photographs and asking the subjects to integrate their own writing in their own language on the portraits gives the idea of documentary storytelling.  Goldberg states that most of his work is about memory and loss.

“I can’t let go of the desire, the impulse, to want to believe in a society where things really will get better.  And, if nothing else, I hold out hope that my photographs and all the people I met can at least still speak for themselves.” – Jim Goldberg 



Bibliography / References:

Aaron Schuman.  Interview:  “Open See” – In Conversation With Jim Goldberg 2011.  [online].  Seesaw.  Available from: [Accessed 1 March, 2017].

DC Moore Gallery.  Duane Michals  [online]. Available from: [Accessed 1 March, 2017].

Eugene Reznik (2014). Interview:  Duane Michals on 50 Years Of Sequences and Staging Photos [online]. American Photo. Available from: [Accessed 1 March, 2017].

Jim Goldberg.  Open See [online].  Magnum Photos.  Available from: [Accessed 1 March, 2017].

Randy Kennedy. This Is What Wealthy Looked Like.  Jim Goldberg Hopes His Pictures Still Make a Difference [online]. The New York Times. Available from: [Accessed 1 March, 2017].

Siobhan Bohnacker. The Last Sentimentalist:  A Q. & A. with Duane Michals [online]. The New Yorker. Available from: [Accessed 1 March, 2017].

Wells, L. (ed) (2003) The Photography Reader. Abingdon: Routledge.




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