During the feedback process on assignment 4, it was suggested I take a look at David Hurn (photographer) and John Fuller’s (poet) book that combines image and text.
It is an interesting collaboration between the two artists, with Hurn’s reportage photographs having a response from Fuller in the form of a poem. The introduction to the book takes the form of a discussion between Hurn and Fuller on the creation of the work and the nature of photography and poetry.
At one point they discuss what came first the photos or the poems and they both seem to agree:
JF: … I was also wondering if you would be able to take photographs to go with poems that I had already written.
DH: That doesn’t work , does it? Poetry is far more flexible than photography … the pictures must come first. Trying to pretend you are taking a photograph that represents an already written poem is absurd … (Hurn and Fuller, 2010, p10)
For my assignment, I had started with an existing piece of writing but had not tried to represent it directly, rather represented the atmosphere and feeling I found through reading the writing. In the final edit the writing content was reduced to extracts of phrases accompanying the picture, so the narrative in the original writing became invisible. But something of atmosphere remained.
So, I agree with Hurn and Fuller’s argument that the photograph needs to come first if there is to be a direct or literal reading between the two components. Perhaps important to Hurn with his reportage style. However, I don’t believe the order is important if a connection between the components is to be made at a different level.
A fellow student directed me to the work of Louise Bourgeois, He Disappeared into Complete Silence, which she described as a collection of drawings (rather than photographs) and poems by the artist that don’t necessarily at first glance look remotely connected.
I think this illustrates the point very well – images do not need to be directly illustrative of text and the combination is more interesting with the space for meaning between the two.
Hurn, D. and Fuller, J. (2010). Writing the picture. 1st ed. Bridgend, Wales: Seren.