A photograph is worth as much as a single word,
as long as they both serve their own particularity.

If someone loves and respects photography, he should certainly love and respect discourse. Because only thus will photography take its special place, which justifies its existence. Adages such as “a picture is worth a thousand words” downgrade the importance of photography and discourse alike.

The particularity of each medium derives from its ability to abstract. The most essential words refer to abstract concepts, nonetheless very specific in their generality. For example, it is impossible to define words such as “love”, “fear”, “death” even in a thousand words. Correspondingly, if a photograph can be described verbally, it is a rather weak photograph, or more precisely an illustration photograph.

The presence of photography in a variety of journalistic printed matter benefited initially from the element of surprise and interest that characterised the public’s attitude. In the pre-war years photography could still hold its own relatively intact. However, it was used later on for reasons of simplicity. It was used to bypass discourse. The extensive and senseless use of photography brought two problems: firstly, it downgraded the importance of discourse, forcing it to follow the path of impressing, and secondly, it not only downgraded but almost eliminated the abstract and allusive force of photography, limiting it to a schematic, concise and slogan illustration of the surface of discourse. These two distortions led to the novel and omnipotent presence of the caption, a neologism that means that the essence is removed both from discourse and photography and is replaced by a laconic and arbitrary phrasal interpretation of the supposed picture.

Things got worse from the moment that photography acquired the title of its artistic nobility. Because, alongside the quest to impress, admiration of form was also cultivated, since when it moves on the surface it creates an even greater impression. To the above should be added the rapid proliferation of printed media, which on the one hand caused an unbridled glut of photographs, and the other the mithridatism of the readers, who after reaching a point of completely dismissing discourse (let’s not forget that the text is often referred to as “pilaf”) also ended up being bored by photographs. Now the reader’s eye should be supplied with ever more impressive (thus more superficial) shots and more slogan captions (thus superficial again). Indeed, for the enjoyment of the “pilaf”, isolated phrases of the text are inserted in large letters, so limiting the text to its supposed essence (that is, again, to its most superficial characteristics). The reader has a few seconds to skim through the sub-headings, the caption and the photograph before turning the page feeling (and this is the worst) updated, informed, sometimes even (always superficially) moved.

There is no tested advice on how to get out of this vicious circle. Except, perhaps, from an attempt to leave photography and discourse to return to their true difficulty. Discourse to its own (luxurious) duration and photography to its own (poor) frugality. Thus, fewer photographs and certainly not descriptive and illustrative of the events. Ideally, a single autonomous, self-sufficient, abstract, concise photograph would suffice to accompany and support an essential complex article.

However, this presupposes that for readers and photographers/journalists alike the difficulty of reflection and knowledge will overcome the simplicity of emotions and instincts, and that they will all understand that the addition of a photograph to a text should complicate rather than simplify it.