Cincinnati 2012 – The lady and the pigeon

Cincinnati 2012 - The lady and the pigeon

Lady and the pigeon

The biggest ethical trap in photography is captioning. If you caption your photograph you have interpreted the photograph. So let’s give it a shot. What’s our caption? What’s this lady’s story? Why is she here? What is she doing? It’s a tender moment. It’s definitely a keeper. But what’s the image about? Does it help to know that, after looking at the pigeon, the lady went over to a table sat down and fell asleep? That’s what I saw. Isn’t falling asleep in public homeless behavior? Nope, can’t use that because falling asleep is not in the photograph. Sorry. OK, maybe you could say another clue is she’s pulling a wire shopping basket with what appears to be a bunch of her clothing. Again, isn’t this behavior we can attribute to being homeless? Great! So maybe now we have our caption: homeless woman looks at pigeon. Not so fast. The ethical problem with captioning is biased interpretation and the risk of just being dead wrong. How much of this caption is based on stereotypes? Also, any interpretation can damage the aesthetics of an image.  Rather than enhancing the photograph, the caption here limits our experience of the image. It boxes us in. For captions less is definitely more.

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