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?
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.