Part of what I want to do with Assignment 3 is juxtapose image and text in a way that Roland Barthes describes as relay text:

“Here text and image stand in a complementary relationship; the words, in the same way as the images, are fragments a more general syntagm and the unity of the message is received at a higher level, that of the story, the anecdote, the diegesis” (Barthes 1977: 41)

Relay is defined in comparison to anchorage, a more common and directive use of text to help the viewer to understand what it is they are seeing (ibid: 40). Traditionally, the photographic caption is based on anchorage rather than relay.

I became interested in visual techniques for using relay text a few years ago while studying Content & Narrative. I came across a photographer called Gus Powell whose work juxtaposed slightly surreal street scenes with text snippets that read as only tangentially related to the image itself. They weren’t captions; they were more equivalent fragments (i.e. equivalent to the image).

There are two specific visual techniques that I believe help Powell’s intention here:

  • the text is moved far enough away from the photograph so as to not look like a caption; the extra physical space detaches it conceptually
  • the white border around the whole image/text combination (not necessarily visible online here) then brings the two parts back together such that the viewer considers them together

… so detached enough yet kept in relation to the image – a tricky balancing act.

These images stayed with me, and returned to front of mind as I started pulling together this assignment of lost glove images.

Alternative treatments

Whilst I acknowledge that some viewers are still likely to read accompanying text as a ‘caption’ (and assume an anchoring purpose), I am interested in ways I can discourage a literal text reading and encourage the idea that the text is somehow an equivalent to the picture.

Here are six variants that I plan to discuss with some peers in a Hangout shortly. Note that you need to click on the first image to see them in slideshow format in order to see the white boundaries that form part of all executions.

Some notes on what I’ve tried already:

  • I recently shared some of the images on Instagram and on a third party blog and used style 2, which possibly works better online than the latter three options
  • 4, 5 and 6 lend themselves to a book presentation – in the early draft book dummy I did weeks ago, it was in style 4

Next steps

Gather some feedback and pick a style!


Barthes, R. (1977) ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ in Image Music Text. London: Fontana.