I read a thought-provoking blog on photography this morning over coffee. Errol Morris, writing in a blog for The New York Times, began what promises to be an interesting series on photography. His first post examined the veracity, their truthfulness or falseness, of photographs arguing that a picture alone cannot be true or false, rather the meaning we assign to a photograph resides in the information surrounding the photograph–typically the caption, but also the context in which the photograph is placed. Of course as a student of language I find this fascinating but also because when one considers the meaning typically given to pictures, Morris’ argument casts the subject in an entirely different light. What are we to make of the statement, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” if in fact it is the words that make meaning, not the picture? Or perhaps the truth of that statement lies not in the supposed authenticity that pictures provide, but instead in the fact that one needs literally thousands of (different and contradictory) words to describe them.

09_lusitania_mersey.jpgI’m afraid that without a subscription to The Times‘ Select service, you will be unable to read Morris’ blog–a subject for another post–but I’ve included the picture he discusses to the left. It is, as he explains, a rather mundane image of a passenger ship that only acquires meaning after it has been identified through a caption as the Lusitania. The picture is taken from the following site: www.maritimequest.com.