Is it a requirement to have a title?

By: Darrell Klein

Dec 01 2007

Category: Art, Creativity, Image, photography


Photo: Untitled – Jackson, Tennessee

Is it a requirement for an artistic photo to have a title? Of course, this is a rhetorical question. I know it is not an absolute requirement. However, I have delayed posting the above photo because I have not been able to come up with a title for it yet. I really like this shot and I wanted to post it a couple of weeks ago when it was taken. I just ran into a case of writers’ block when it came to creating a catchy title. Therefore, this will be a rare occasion where I will have an untitled photograph.

Ever since I started photographing for artistic purposes (whatever that means, if anything) I have titled the photographs that I have printed or displayed on my blog here. I really cannot say why I felt the need to do so but to me, it gives the image an identity. I often wonder if it is the same for the people that view my images. Does my giving a title to my images “help” you appreciate my photography in any way? Does it offer you a greater understanding of what it is that I am trying to say with a particular photograph? I would love to hear what you think. I would love it even more if some of you would give suggestions for a title for this image.  That could prove to be quite interesting.


3 comments on “Is it a requirement to have a title?”

  1. Darrell,
    I have heard a couple of positions regarding the issue/question of title or no title.
    I for one feel it depends on the REALITY that is within. In other words, if it ain’t there then don’t contrive something just for the sske of giving it a title.
    There is something kinda of self-serving in the process of giving something a title as if that is the last word on the subject.

    For example,I have a collection of my photos @ the University Tenn @ Martin entitled “Pairings”.
    The point or emphasis is not on the individual photo as much as it is the pairing and or the relationship of two images to the other. In this case, by pairing the images I discovered that a new statement was possible that could not be attain simply by displaying the images separately. The significance of the pairings is something that is left to the viewer to make or NOT.

    I have taken a collection of photos of small towns….buildings, people and textures that are unique to West Tenn.

    I came across your work by chance…..BUT maybe not.

    Anyway, I find your work fascinating because it mirrors my approach to the craft of recording a fading part of our world….and especially this region of the State.

    Since my arrival, I have not been to Jackson, TN. yet. But I do plan a trip there God willing to capture some of the vanishing aspects of this state’s history and past.

    I would love ot meet you if possible.

    Back to the question, my encouragement is to not sweat the title as much as the context. There is something to say about what (if anything) thought wise may have gone into the choice of shooting a particular image.

    Often in my case I am not making a REAL consious decision, but rather I am intuitively drawn to certain subject matter because it is what drives my passion for doing something called photography. Although I don’t know you… sense is that you too arrive at your choice to shot something and not something else because you are drawn to it. In most cases that is all that matters.

    My sense is that the art world has somewhat corrupted the engagement of JUST DOING and turned it into…..some personal self-serving opportunity to say look at me world…..via titles and GRANDIOS STATEMENTS.

    Hope this makes sense????

    If not, come and take a look at the photos and let me know what you think about my take on our West Tenn. region.
    I am not wanting to draw attention to me ss much as I want people to notice what is right under there noses everyday.

  2. Hey Darrell – as you may noticed on my blog, I prefer titles that are of the “#” variety, as in, ku # 1, ku # 2, and so on into infinity. I base this approach on the idea that an Artist Statement lets people know, in general, what I am up to and after that they can figue stuff out on their own and find meaning that speaks to their inner workings.

    I definitely am not a fan, of titles that veer off into ‘cute’ and/or ‘clever’ inferences, metaphors, etc.

  3. Thanks to Robert and Mark for the lively discussion here. I have to say that I really didn’t expect responses like these. I never saw giving titles to my images as possibly being seen as a negative thing by some viewers. I have to say that I am probably guilty as charged when it comes to giving “cute” or “clever” titles to my images. However, I don’t feel that my giving a title to my images is done so in an effort to say look at me. Anyone that knows me well will tell you that I am not the “look at me” type. It is my images that I want to receive the attention. I photograph for myself first and foremost but I am only human in that I want others to appreciate and enjoy viewing my work.

    I appreciate the opinions that you two have shared here. I may not agree with you but I can do so respectfully. Mark, I certainly respect your opinion as I am a big fan of your blog and your philosophy on photography. Thank you for stopping in and contributing to the discussion.

    P.S. – I will say this, from viewing the search terms that people use to find my blog, the “clever” titles that I give to many of my images are often what steers traffic to my blog. This would indicate that I am getting my work in front of people that would otherwise never see it if I didn’t give titles to my photos. I consider that a good thing.

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