Erez Marom: On the importance of naming images
In this article I want to talk about a subject which might not seem specifically connected to landscape photography, but which in my opinion is very relevant to this field, and indeed all types of photography.
Naming artworks has always been important, not only because it's useful to have a way to refer to the piece, but also, and much more importantly, to present a window to the creator's vision and ideas, to clarify his intentions when creating the piece and to provide additional content to the visual. In 'artistic' photography it seems that the situation is similar, and an image's title sometimes holds much more than can be seen in the image itself, insinuate as to the photographer's motives and feelings and hint at things which can be missed otherwise. Even 'Untitled' images are often left untitled for a good reason. The title, or lack thereof, is a critical part of the art.
'Canary Cave', Katla Glacier, Iceland, January 2014.
It appears to me that nature and landscape photographers often neglect giving attention to naming their images. It might be because they produce too many images to come up with original names for each of them (unless you count 'Crater Lake Sunset XVIII'), or it may be due to lack of a deep connection to the art they produce. In any case, I think it's a shame.
Titles can add a whole lot to a landscape image. Take for example the first image shown here, 'Canary Cave', shot in Katla Glacier, Iceland, on a beautiful winter day. The vast majority of responses I got to the image were from people who were delighted to have discovered the canary-shaped contour. They told me they had liked the image for its overall appearance, for the colors in the ice and for the top-view of the mountains in the background, but once they read the title and saw the canary, a whole new dimension opened up, they could better share my views and most importantly, understand the art is it was supposed to be understood.
One of my most successful shots, 'Spot the Shark', is perhaps the best example from my portfolio. What could contribute more to an image than a hint to the very thing which I think makes it so special? I've had people go crazy over the 'shark', debating where it is and enjoying the revelation. This most definitely made people more exposed to the image, and it even appeared in a National Geographic book, dare I say due, in part, to its title.
|'Spot the Shark', Breiðamerkursandur, Iceland, January 2013|
A deeper meaning is carried in the title of the following image, 'The Harp of Kleifarvatn'. It is very poetic to cross-attribute natural phenomena, and a beautiful display of Aurora Borealis can be seen as music to the eyes. In this particular shot, the aurora created a shape that to my eye looked like a harp – what could be more fitting than naming it accordingly, connecting the visual impact with the sensation of heavenly music?
|'The Harp of Kleifarvatn', Kleifarvatn, Iceland, January 2014|
Let's move on. How about film references? I'm not a huge film buff, but I know what I like, and I love incorporating movie quotes in my daily life and in my art. How about Star Wars for starters? The beautiful dunes of Sossusvlei, shrouded in mist, immediately reminded me of Cloud City, the floating metropolis from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
|'Cloud City', Sossusvlei, Namib Naukluft Park, Namibia, May 2014|
What about TV series? Comic books?
And it goes on and on. Music has always been a big part of my life. I have very eclectic tastes and I listen to many musicians from very different fields. I just love referencing album names, song titles and even lyrics in the titles of my images.
Finally, there are subjects which look too much like other places to pass mentioning them in the title.
There can be even more kinds of contribution a proper title can supply. Don't ignore its importance to your art, give it the respect it deserves and your photography will benefit greatly, not only in terms of its visual content but in the amount of connection both you and the viewers feel toward it.
Erez Marom is a professional nature photographer, photography guide and traveler based in Israel. You can follow Erez's work on Instagram, Facebook and 500px, and subscribe to his mailing list for updates.
If you'd like to experience and shoot some of the most fascinating landscapes on earth with Erez as your guide, you're welcome to take a look at his unique photography workshops around the world:
Land of Ice - Southern Iceland
Winter Paradise - Northern Iceland
Northern Spirits - The Lofoten Islands
Giants of the Andes and Fitz Roy Annex - Patagonia
Tales of Arctic Nights, Part I and Part II - Greenland
Earth, Wind and Fire - Ethiopia
Selected articles by Erez Marom:
- Behind the Shot: Dark Matter
- Mountain Magic: Shooting in the Lofoten Islands
- Behind the Shot: Nautilus
- Behind the Shot: Lost in Space
- Behind the Shot: Spot the Shark
- Quick Look: The Art of the Unforeground
- Behind the Shot: Watery Grave
- Whatever it Doesn't Take
- Winds of Change: Shooting changing landscapes