John Kippin

One of the photographers that my tutor has recommended I take a look at with regards to use of text with images is John Kippin. Kippin studied Fine Art at Brighton Polytechnic and at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle. He introduced text into his images to challenge the realist paradigm which underscored documentary practice. Kippin focuses landscape photography and allows him to investigate encoded meanings and ideas while at the same time referencing traditional landscapes and juxtaposing them with reflections on cultural and political change in Britain (British Council Visual Arts).

I first looked at Kippin’s work without reading up on his background or methods and was a little puzzled as to his use of text. He seems to float just a word or sometimes a phrase across the image, very much like a watermark. The word seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the photo at all – at least this was my impression. But obviously there must be some hidden meaning attached to which I’m oblivious to at the moment. It might be a cultural thing, not being British and not being familiar with the landscapes and various political changes that have occurred since the 1980s as someone local might be.

Photo by John Kippin

Even though I’ve now read a little background on his methods, I still don’t really get it. The images are wonderful, beautifully executed, but most of the images that had text left me with the question “What is ….. (supply the word on the photo)?” Take the photo above as an example. I can see it is a lake with some kind of structure protruding out of the water. The word “invisible” is watermarked on the lower centre third of the image. I then noticed the word “Kielder” as a caption to the image and googled it and came up with some information that Kielder is a man-made reservoir, the largest artificial lake in the UK. And after more googling I discovered that the structure in the water is the dam valve tower.

Without the use of internet, this image would not have much meaning for me and I wonder if some of the text is too obscure. But Kippin made me work at this image, so I suppose he has achieved his goal. I’m left feeling a little ambivalent with this particular usage of text with images.

Reference List

British Arts Council (n.d.) John Kippin (1950 – ) [online] British Arts Council. Available at: [Accessed 11 May, 2017]




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