Richard Prince, Untitled, 1983
Cindy Sherman, Untitled, 1979
Gregory Crewdson, Untitled, 1998
Pina Yolacan, Untitled, from the “Perishables” series, 2004
A photographer’s conscious decision to leave his work untitled is both a burden and a blessing for the work’s audience. While these ambiguous titles can lead to chaotic cataloging, their openendedness can liberate viewers. The mysterious nature of untitled work begs its audience to further scrutinize the intent of the photographer. This uncertainty of meaning facilitates a discourse among viewers, as they must solely rely on visual clues to interpret and gather information about the work.
Without descriptive words to guide viewers, the context of the work shifts and the photographer’s intentions are in question. Was the photographer too busy to title his work, or did he fear that his verbal interpretation could not eloquently articulate his vision? Did the photographer envision search engines of today and the ineffectiveness of searching the keyword “untitled”?
Perhaps untitled works have actually found their home in our digital environment, a place where every person can tag and name content. With or without titles, the viewer is a willing participant, a creator who shares his interpretation of content with the ease and safety granted by online anonymity. This ability to categorize and classify work fosters an interactive environment, one that can enhance the encounter between viewers and the untitled photograph.