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The importance of having captions

The August/00 issue of the University of Chicago Magazine carried a rather innocuous, pallid piece on the enthusiams of professors during "The Joys of Summer."

It was a fun and easy read, possibly placed by design after the more disturbing reprint of a timely but controversial article on "Death in a Tenured Position."

The text on those professorial joys did the needful; I was enthused by the scholarly exploits some of Chicago's finest. The photos, however, told a different story. Most displayed scholars in their milieu, with books, offices, and labs in the background, and either a book or a baby in the foreground-all appropriate images related to the subjects' work.

In one jarring case, however, the image offered is an off-center profile of a scholar gazing into the distance, while the bulk of the photo offers a fuzzy view of a young man lying atop a (sleeping? comatose? dead?) young woman. The scholar is focused on something outside the photo; the young man's view is partially obscured, with one eye hidden by the body of the young woman and the other seemingly focused on the scholar. The body of the young woman offers no gaze -her face is hidden; her hand inert; her lifeless body a prop for the youth resting upon her, gazing at the unreceptive scholar.

Why was this photo chosen as the best showcase for a summer's work on volume "T" of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary?

Victoria Farmer, AB'83
Philadelphia

The image to which Farmer refers is of photographer Laura Letinsky in front of a work from her series on intimacy; the photograph of Martha Roth-across the bottom of the same spread-does indeed capture the scholar in her milieu: a book-crowded office on the top floor of the Oriental Institute, poring over the draft of another volume in the dictionary. Ms. Farmer's confusion is understandable. We should have asked the designer to leave room for identifying captions and will do so from now on.-Ed.



  DECEMBER 2000

  > > Volume 93, Number 2


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