At its heart, photography is communication. It is communication about the subject being photographed. It is communicating the reality of the subject and the ideas, perceptions, understandings, feelings, appreciations and emotions the photographer brings to the subject.

There are a few fundamental requirements for communication to happen. At its basic level, communication is sending or transmitting “intelligence” or "a message" from one person (a sender) to another (a receiver) that is understandable by the receiver using a method or channel.

Obviously, if any part of these basic requirements is missing (a message, a sender, a receiver and a channel), no communication occurs. But more importantly, the message must be understandable by the person viewing or reading the photograph. This is where the complex interrelationship of  the photograph and text help fully realize each other by providing the opportunity for a better understanding of the subject. The text could be an introduction to the work, an essay relating to the subject of the photographs or individual captioning of each photograph.

In photography:

  • The message is contained in the combination of the photograph and text. The photography provides the information the text can't. The text provides information the photography can't. 
  • The photographer is the sender of the intelligence.
  • The receiver is the person who views the image.
  • The print, book, magazine, network, etc., is the channel to convey the intelligence.

And rather than a simple restatement of of reality, as photography is often characterized, the message is filtered through the photographer's perception, recognition, understanding and appreciation of the subject.

Assume four photographers attend a custom car show. To the first, the importance lies in the variety of engines used to power the cars. To the second, the importance lies in the different interior designs. To the third, the importance is found in the different paint schemes. To the fourth photographer the importance lies in the people attending the event and the commerce the event generates. None of these choices are right and none are wrong. They are simply what each photographer feels should be the focus or subject of the work; what the message or the intelligence should be.