David teaches on a number of undergraduate & postgraduate modules, and describes one of his research interests as Text and Context:
Many writers have discussed the way that text can work with an image – Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, Martha Rosler, John Tagg and Gillian Rose, among numerous others.
At its simplest level a caption can define a moment and location in the subject’s history – for example this image from an old family album captioned “Blackpool July 1958”:
(That’s me on the donkey)
At other times the text can provide us with an insight into contemporary attitudes and discourses, as in these examples from the early 20th century. These simple tourist images seem innocent enough,
but may become less innocent when you read the hand written captions on the reverse:
Seemingly these were “a delightful group of Indian Officers who moved away when they saw my camera”.
And in another example from the same collection:
“Camels swathed in scarves following the “Mahmal” carrying old old sheikh playing absurd little tunes on ridiculous little drums and penny whistles”.
You can make your own judgment about how the attitudes and cultural anchorage of the photographer affected how she or he interpreted the scene. If you are interested in this sort of Discourse Analysis you might like Discourse Analysis Online from Sheffield Hallam University: