Is it perhaps too simplistic to assume that photography should always be approached through the age-old saying "picture is worth a thousand words"? Or is it maybe a field that is more multifaceted than that?
For some time, I held an opinion that images, or my images in particular, should be able to convey the message I intend to send to the viewer, even if the message is to ask questions about what is portrayed or what the story is behind the photograph. And generally, I have come across a similar view in camera clubs, where appeasing to judges is more important than straying away from the norm and creating something different, something more complex. However, I have also begun to notice that there are moments where a one-off image cannot express enough of what I want to tell the world, in which case, written text comes to help.
The way I see it, there are two extreme ends: those who are convinced that each image should always be able to tell the viewer what the photographer meant with their image or what the underlying story is, and those who create work that is so obscure or deeply personal that text is necessary for viewers to even begin to relate to what they are seeing or what they "should" be seeing.
I believe that there is a common ground somewhere in the middle where photography is an important part to help us visualize a certain idea, theme, or project, but where text is also necessary to accompany it. This comes into practice through projects or collections of images, where images on their own would be able to stand their ground, whether from an artistically pleasing or technically acceptable viewpoint, but the addition of text fully completes the photographer's concept. Furthermore, it ensures that the concept is not misunderstood or warped to wrongly fit other people's narratives.
For example, photojournalist Christina de Middel, during her three-year-long documentary project about a prostitute, Paula P., realized that she couldn't truly portray the judgment that Paula experienced from others towards her and prostitution, so she "decided to take the book and change the narrative of the story by using verses from the Bible." She also added other images that had been taken outside of the project to further "convey the oppressive nature of other people’s views on her life." If you were to take single images from her project, they might not necessarily make sense by themselves, or they wouldn't be able to send a strong enough message as they do by being in a collective that is accompanied with words that emphasize what the message is all about. You can see de Middel's project on her website.
Similarly, I created a visual book for my family where I documented the garage and shed that my late grandfather was working in throughout every summer. After his passing, my family had left most of the things in the same place as they used to be. Although the images on their own would mean something to my family and not so much to anyone else they chose to share the book with, I also search for a suitable long poem. The piece of poetry I chose spoke about being on the road and finally returning back home, because that is exactly what I wanted to emphasize with this work. My grandfather's legacy lays in the family he helped to bring up and who we all are today, and his spirit will not be forgotten even if his favorite tools, pair of glasses, or that unfinished plan of the house will be eventually discarded.
To conclude, I believe that photography is a field that can be utilized creatively in so many ways. Whether you include text or not and whether you add any other elements to it, you have so many ways to decide on how you want to deliver your message. I think the current social media climate has often overinflated the importance of having that one-off image that strongly stands on its own, but if we choose to follow our own path, social media or not, we are the only ones to decide how we want to portray our work and be satisfied with it.