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When written language is part of the image...

by Editor Wicher Bos 
Published the 31st of March 2020

Comics, represent a composite of text and pictures, in which the reader has to perceive and interpret the present signs, and reconcile them in relation to each other
. The term visual language is a familiar metaphor for images as if they were storytelling objects similar to books. Recently I came across a model by Scott McCloud (an American cartoonist and comics theorist) Who wrote a book “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art” (1993). 

Comic books… the ultimate place where image and words, visual and written language, come together to deliver their joint message.

I believe his ideas may be applied to photography as well. Photography often called a "picture language", is able to convey meaning in a powerful way. Merely its symbols are different from those of written language. Although photos are given titles, which influences the way we interpret the image, the title is still outside the image. What if words actually feature in the image? What if written language is part of the image?


'The nonsense speech' by Ben Goossens
... a flow of words who doesn't make sense.

The ways in which we can combine them are practically limitless, but McCloud suggested a classification containing
seven major categories:

(1)   word specific, where pictures illustrate a text;

(2)   picture specific, where words add a “soundtrack” to the visual;

(3)   duo-specific, in which both strands convey the same message;

(4)   additive, where one of the strands amplifies or elaborates on the other;

(5)   parallel, where words and images follow different courses and do not intersect;

(6)   montage, where words can be treated as integral segments of the image;

(7)   interdependent, where words and images combine to create a message they could not convey alone.

Let’s explore some images where we find ‘words’ in the image. I invite you think about the impact these words have on the meaning of the image. If we leave them out what happens to the image? The McCloud category may provide some guidance… as an exercise, to explore the interplay between Word and Image.

To provide additional background, I also copied the explanation the photographer added in the comment section and show it with the title of the image.


'Encre 2' by David Senechal Photographie (polydactyle)
”no words just characters… still they do more than other simple objects…
how many of you tried to read it or to determine what language it was? I guess quite a few… ;)”


Let me know in the comments what you think,
Source I used: 2015 - The interplay of words and images in expressing multimodal metaphors in comics by Milos Tasic, Dusan Stamenkovic.


'Me Too' by Ekkachai Khemkum



'*' by Paulo Medeiros



'Shipping' by Jürgen Hartlieb



'Smell the coffee' by Dina Belenko



'finding words' by Roswitha Schleicher-Schwarz
She added an additional explanation: “The German GIER means GREED”



'The Word' by Martin Gremm



'Words of Flame' by KT Allen
Words of Flame is about deflecting the negative words people say. It for anyone that has experienced a 'flame' of negative things said about them.  The girl was photographed in Edinburgh and the background was taken from the underground in Paris, including the original documents from Einstein, whom had his share of flames against him in his theories.



'words on skin II' by fevers & mirrors (Eva-Maria Brauer)
the lyrics on my skin are from the song "le vent nous porteras". when you listen to a song that often, you wear it like a tattoo...
"oh the pictures have been washed in black - tattooed everything" (from Pearl Jam)



'Unspoken' by Kurt Weinmeister
Sometimes we are too shy, too vain, too scary, too whatever to express ourself clearly. 
And sometimes we do not recognize the signals we get from others. For different reasons.



'Fuite d'eau' (Water Leak) by David Senechal Photographie (polydactyle)



'Gritty Palace' by Wayne Pearson
This is the side of a building complex, and everything you see is there. I was attracted to the vertical line of Air Conditioners and the ART sign with the very graphic marks and textures embedded into the cement walls.



'Post no bills' by Dieter Matthes
Manhattan, New York, 1989. For me the words seemed to implicate a general prohibition of any presence of this black man, who had been sitting there like an accusing sculpture against any racism. The picture is part of my series "Alone".



'Words...' by Massimiliano Mancini



'Wheel of life' by Dieter Matthes
Dallas, USA, 1992. A child was playing in all his innocence with the wheel using this threatening place like a playground.
In context with the inscription the situation had been a strong metaphorical power.
I used consciously a 800ASA film as a 1600 ASA one for more grain and more expressive atmosphere.



'Beach' by Harry Verschelden



 'Words on fire' by Jack Burger



'For smart living' by Gilbert Claes



'*' by Antonio Grambone
'Vin bon' means Good Wine



‘A cat fisher on the beach’ by Iryna Kuznetsova (Iridi)



'Cat teacher and his pupils... :)’ by Iryna Kuznetsova (Iridi)



'Beach chair border' by Burghard Nitzschmann



'Put the kettle on!' by Dina Belenko
Experimenting with lettering. It took a lot of time to arrange all the coffee beans, but I hope the picture was worth it.



'The bench' by Lorenzo Grifantini
The sixties changed the relationship between the city and its inhabitants forever. From the ruins of Victorian austerity and the interminable years of war, arose a “swinging” time that revolutionised the inter-connection between people and their built environment. London “is” the people who live there. The eight million inhabitants constitute a melting pot of different social classes which for better or worse, cannot be found in other cities. You can find nonchalant gentlemen rolling in the grass with their highly-bred dogs; at the same time and at the same time afro-Caribbean families enjoying a parade; children with hula hoops and women with niqabs shoulder to shoulder with weary women relaxing in park; happy, though chilly, little ballerinas; impatient traders in Portobello; old people, rather overwhelmed, but still mixing with everyone; colourful models, street musicians playing as if at their own home and actors who use the pavements as their own green room. The city rejects no one, it welcomes all without barriers. Only in London may one take photos like these without anybody batting an eye lid, at worst they point to their eyes as though to say: "look deep into them".



'Coffee for dreamers' by Dina Belenko
Apparently, I'm reading too many fairy tales with dragons.



'Finalist :))' by Iryna Kuznetsova (Iridi)



Artists museum – 'Is there a future?' by Wicherbos
Somewhere in Luxembourg, I noticed this very sad message to all artists of the world... Don't let it happen...
don't give up when in dark spots... we want you to succeed...The shade seems to replace a house number - so sad...


I'm glad to be in such a wonderful company here! ^_^
Thank you! 謝謝你,
Hi Yvette and Wicher, thank you very much for selecting and including one of my images in your article, stay safe and healthy.
Thanks, dear Wayne! All the best for you and your family too...
Great article and gallery, dear Wicher! Thanks, my friend. Congratulations to the authors too. Cheers, Yvette
Yvette, thank you for your support and guidance!
My pleasure and 'duty' to keep up the magazine, Wicher! You're of a great help and support too.