Images and Text (1)

“Placing words and images in the same perceptual space is not as easy as it looks. The artist has to keep track of four phenomena, not just the apparent two. First, the words have accepted, coded meanings and contexts that affect what we see in the adjacent images. Second, the words invoke mental images that might also conflict with what we see. Third, images have meanings and contexts that may alter our engagement with the adjacent words. Fourth, images can call up words in the mind of the viewer. The coordination of image/word/word/image is not easy, but the more difficult it is, the more possibilities present themselves for qualifying or clarifying the larger world”. – Rod Slemmons Conversations: Text and Image

Karen Knorr:  Belgravia

A German born American photographer who lives in London (January 5, 1954).  Her black and white series (Belgravia) combines images and text to describe class and power between international and wealthy during the beginning of Thatcherism in London during 1979 and 1981.  The photographs are non portraits meaning they are not to show the truth of the people in the photographs or their ideas, they all remain anonymous.

Knorr used the witty combination of the text and image to provoke humor and exaggeration.  She used key words that can be found within the text to create meaning to the work.  The photograph and text do not illustrate each other.  Her text are laid in a poetic style.  Her photographs are staged where she goes to the people homes and choose the scene and clothes then talks to her models and constructs the text during the conversation.

Knorr enjoys seducing the viewer into making them think about what she is presenting through the captions and beauty of the image.

As seen from the images above, Knorr has worked on the presentation of the text quite well.  She used what Roland Berger calls the third meaning.  We look at the beauty of the images, make our own assumptions then read the text below and go back and forth to the image and text to re-evaluate.  The text is broken into lines similar to poetry and Knorr chose the font and capitalized the key words in her text such as Habitat in the left image and Privilege in the next.

Looking at Knorr’s work makes it clear to me that we should pay a lot of consideration to the text and image and the relationship between them.  The font as well as the way the text should be presented is also an important thing to look at when wanting to convey ideas using both image and text.

“I’m an artist who works with pictures and words. Sometimes that stuff ends up in different kinds of sites and contexts which determine what it means and looks like”. – Barbara Kruger.

The meaning of a photograph can be altered by how they are situated and presented especially if text is added.

Sophie Calle:

France most famous conceptual artist.  She uses images and text in her work.  She said she added text because maybe her photographs were not good at the beginning, she claims she didn’t read for Roland Barthes or others because simply she doesn’t read!

She became a stalker in her piece “Suite Vénitienne” when she stalked a stranger she once met at a party and she followed him to Venice and started taking photos of him using a woman’s room opposite to his.

She also became a thief when she found a stranger’s Address book on a street and copied the numbers before returning it.  She then contacted the numbers asking for a description of the owner.

In her work “Sleepers”, she invited 29 people to sleep in her bed while she observed them sleeping and eating breakfast served by her.  Her most powerful work was “Take Care of Yourself” where she sent a breakup text she got from her lover and sent it to 107 women requesting their reactions.

I find Calle a very interesting artist and I enjoyed listening to her lecture, she is sarcastic with a dry sense of humor and very creative.  I loved her story about her mum’s ring and Channel necklace.  She took them after her mother died and buried them in a glacier in the North Pole because her mother’s dream was to go there.

Below is a video of a lecture by her.  Although the quality of the video is not very clear but the lecture itself is worth to listen to.

Lecture by Sophie Calle

California College of the Arts – CCA

Bibliography / References:

Barker, S.  Karen Knorr : Belgravia   [online]. The Eye Of Photography.  Available from: [Accessed 18 March, 2017].

Barrest, T. (5 ed) (2011).  Criticizing Photographs. New York:  McGraw-Hill.

Jeffries, S.  Sophie Calle: stalker, stripper, sleeper, spy   [online]. The Guardian. Available from: [Accessed 19 March, 2017].

Knorr, K. Belgravia (1979 – 1981) [online].  Available from: [Accessed 18 March, 2017].

O’Hagan, S. Strangers, secrets and desire: the surreal world of Sophie Calle [online]. The Guardian. Available from: [Accessed 19 March, 2017].

Slemmons, R.  Conversations: Text and Image (Feb 26 — Apr 17, 2004) [online]. Museum Of Contemporary Photography. Available from:  [Accessed 18 March, 2017].

Woodward, D. (2015).  Belgravia by Karen Knorr  [online]. AnOther.  Available from: [Accessed 18 March, 2017].


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