To caption or not to caption

Look at the image below. Try, first, to determine what is going on, or what you feel about it, without reading its’ caption.

And now the caption:

Red Cross Train, Budapest, Hungary, 1947. A large tear collects under each eye of the girl on the right as she and her companions – orphans under the care of the red cross – stare into an uncertain future. Children like these were often sent to Switzerland for three months of recuperation, only to return to the shocking devastation of their own country – Phaidon 55, Werner Bischof

While I could do without the melodramatic ‘tear collecting’ or the ‘shocking’ bits, the image has, for me, become dependent on it’s caption. The truth? Though I’m not going to waste too much time doubting what is impossible to conveniently verify, I’d take the image with caption, the detail, rather than not know who, why or what.

However, some captions I could do without entirely:

Good Dog, Iglesias, Italy, 1947. Bischof’s Magnum colleague Henri Cartier Bresson claimed that a good photograph should ask questions. This one demands to know: how long has this dog been sitting to attention? – Phaidon 55, Werner Bischof

No, I don’t ask how long the dog has been sitting to attention.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

eighteen − one =