In speaking with other photographers, I’m surprised at how often the subject of difficulty in naming a work comes up. It seems that a lot of thought and effort goes into coming up with names, and with good reason, I suppose. After all, names catch the eyes of viewers, and provide an opportunity to convey information about the work in a way that is separate from the visual communication of the work itself. Certain kinds of names seem to run in themes over and over again – the insightful name, the ironic name, the funny name, etc. Not that I’m putting down this kind of approach in any way, mind you, it’s just not how I do it.
For me, naming is pretty simple. I generally go with the first thing that comes to me when I’m thinking about the concept, and then just add series and numbers for further additions to that concept. For the image in this post, the concept was very white trees against very dark backgrounds – hence the name “White Trees.” The first location at which I photographed the white trees was in Rocky Mountain National Park, so all of the images from that location are “Series 1.” There also is a White Trees, Series 2 (images photographed at the Mount Goliath Natural Area in Colorado), and a White Trees, Series 3 may be in the works (for trees located at the Windy Ridge Bristlecone Pine Scenic Area in Colorado, which I have yet to visit). Additional series may come as I discover more locations for this concept.
Personally, I like the simplicity of this kind of naming convention (obviously, I’m far from the only person to use it). To me, the emphasis should be on the image itself, and the name should be just a simple, plain statement of what the image is. There’s a certain elegance to this, and it also saves a lot of time and effort trying to come up with “just the right name” for any given image.
Of course, if you’re paying attention at all, you’ll notice that I’ve deviated from the convention for the image in this post. In fact, I’ve done so for all of the images in the White Trees, Series 1. There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, this particular series is special to me, because it was the first time I was able to develop and execute a cohesive concept linking together a group of images with a common theme. Second, I see the trees in this series as having strongly identifiable, almost uniquely anthropomorphic qualities – they seem almost human-like, the way they are situated in their environment. In the image in this post, for example, I can’t help but see the distant tree as a leader, beckoning to a point over the horizon, to which the tree in the foreground is following. Hence the name, “Lead the Way.”
Rarely do I like to describe my own interpretations of my own work. I know what my work means to me, and I like to let the viewer take away whatever meaning of their own they want (in fact, I would be curious to know if my explanation here changed, either for the better or for the worse, anyone’s perceptions about the image). I thought I would make an exception in this post, though, in the interest of exploring what’s in a name.