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Wednesday, December 5, 2012 5:43 pm
Talking Pictures
Posted by: Gary Niebuhr

Having a hobby can sometimes make one a pain but bear with me on this one as I am about to advocate for another book of photography for a book discussion.  This time around it is Talking Pictures:  Images and Messages Rescued From the Past by Ransom Riggs.  Riggs is the author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a novel that is illustrated with found photographs.

Besides a love of photography, Riggs shares one other hobby with me and that is the search for the ultimate found object to be re purposed in a piece of art.  In Riggs’ case, he has a passion for hunting through flea markets and antique stores for old photographs with writing on the back.  He admits to turning the boxes of these around and looking first for the words, then for the image.  It is an interesting hobby which, on the face of it, may not have a real high return rate for compelling finds.

That proves not to be true as evidence by the photos and captions displayed in this book.

Caption reads:  I’m nobody’s baby

The key is the writing.  Great photographs are compelling but there is a whole additional dimension added when the words scribbled on the back by either the photographer or the subject add an enhanced theme.  The captions are like a code:  you need to study the photograph, bring your own baggage to the forefront, and then decode the message.

How about a man and a woman standing together on a beach with their arms around each other.  The caption reads, “Keep this one to yourself.  I do!  Actually she is too small.  I will throw her back when I get through with her.”

OK, discuss.

That about sums up the advantage to using a book like this for a discussion.  The stories are all short.  They are also incomplete until the viewer and the reader finish writing the story.  I think a book discussion group could discuss the depths of the photographs as art and help complete the stories that the captions have begun.

Me?  I am going to buy a copy of this book and add it to my library of photography books.  It is certainly one that I can return to time and time again assured that each time I do, it will force me to tell a different story to myself.

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