In the following, I discussed how I re-captioned various photographs taken from London’s Evening Standard. In many cases, the image is so neutral that it can be re-contextualised by the caption in many ways while still being an effective part of the message.
The first picture was taken from the London Evening Standard of 3rd October 2017. Its original caption is shown below the image
The original caption, which is very much in line with what Barthes described as the “anchor” type of message not only put the image in the full context of the events where it was taken, but they also guide our feelings towards the subjects depicted by putting the word “Brave” in front of the text. Could the results be changed completely by just changing that word? The rest of the caption is very descriptive, so it would not be inconceivable that a contemporary newspaper in America could have put the same caption preceded with a negative word:
Shameful!: Mohammad Ali and Martin Luther King come together in 1967 (left) at a fair-housing rally in Louisville after King joined the fighter in condemning the Vietnam War
The viewer relies on the veracity of the text to provide the right context to interpret an image. But a caption does not need to be accurate and indeed, an image, specially one where there are no iconic elements that tie it with a particular interpretation, could be reused for many purposes by virtue of the analogical nature of its message. In the image we have Mohammed Ali and we know foremost that he was a boxer. In addition to the general knowledge that boxers give press conferences before their bouts, we also know that Ali was famous for his cockiness and for constantly taunting his opponents. In the picture, Ali seems to be speaking with a reporter. The image also includes Martin Luther King, whom we know for being a political activist (but not a boxer). He does look rather distracted in the image, almost like stunned. For an alternative interpretation of this image, however implausible, we could insert this caption:
Mohammed Ali and Martin Luther King give a press conference before their heavyweight championship fight next week in Houston
A similar effect of implausibility could be achieved with a relay type of caption like
– ‘ I am definitely greater than Dr King!’ –
The second picture was taken from the London Evening Standard of 3rd October 2017. Its original caption is shown below the image.
The photograph was illustrating an article on strategies to maintain our attention span and being more productive, and the caption alludes to that (“stay sharp during meetings”) while also referencing one of the strategies mentioned, that of drinking coffee, by using words like “macchiato moment” and “caffeine hit”. The picture itself, a caption from the BBC comedy “W1A” depicts a meeting, with one person being shown quite prominently, while the others, in the periphery, are one partially visible or obscure each other. The person in the middle is also the only one having a hot drink, evidenced by the mug, while the rest appear to be drinking water. It is hard to ignore the giant black and white image of a person’s face on the background. We are not sure what this is, but it can be used to support various caption ideas:
-‘I would not turn around now if I were you!’ –
-‘Do you want another coff…? Oh, what the heck is that…!’ –
The third picture was taken from the London Evening Standard of 3rd October 2017. Its original caption is shown below the image.
The image featured in an article on actor Nikki Amuka-Bird, who is staring in The Lady From the Sea, an Ibsen play to be staged in the Donmar Wharehouse, in London. The original caption places the image in the context of a rehearsal, where we see the director giving instructions to the actors, but the image is sufficiently generic to be reused for many other purposes with the correct caption.
‘Reverend Lewis talks to church volunteers after the fundraising event held in Edgbaston last Monday.
The fact that he is gesticulating and the two ladies in the image seem to be attentively looking at his hands could also inspire some alternative relay captions:
-‘The cat was this big!
The story was told with all the details
The final picture was taken from the London Evening Standard of 4th October 2017. Its original caption is shown below.
The original article was an economic piece about various companies, including construction company Balfour Beatty, which has recently won a large contract in Miami. The image of Miami illustrates this point, although other than the reference to the location, there was not much connection between the image and the article.
In the image, other than the art deco buildings and the palm trees clearly anchoring the image in Miami, we can see a person riding a skateboard through the middle of the road. In some places, this may be considered dangerous or illegal and I could see this image being used to highlight this:
Skating in the middle of the road may seem fun, but it could be dangerous if you are not careful.
It can also be used to achieve the opposite:
Skating on the road in areas with low traffic can be safer than using the pavement, where there is little room for manoeuvre when encountering pedestrians.