What is a Photograph – Part 4

What is a Photograph – Part 4

The, ‘graphe’ forms the identity of the photograph beyond its physical existence and having enabled us to read it’s framed truth it also exists as something else. It is where the photograph sits within history, its social and cultural loading that arguably gives it its fuller definition. It is a medium in which we can explore and question history, social change and our own and other’s cultures and cultural bias. From propaganda to documentary and journalistic photography, the use of the photograph has been catalyst important for calling in to question and questioning. Within the frame of the photograph we find a, ‘truth or proof,’ one that we can read dependant on what we the spectator bring to it.

This truth allows us to gain a level of knowledge from the photograph, however it can in itself be a lie as we are now all too aware. Not only with the photograph’s use in propaganda, but with digital manipulation, something not entirely new given the Victorians cut and paste images. What is in the frame of a photograph does not tell us what is without.

Many photographs are therefore a false truth, indeed an illusion, from those mis-truths which we are now more aware of in advertising, through to the full illusion of the pornographic image which offers the reader a false access to another’s body through a paper or electronic surface that so they can imagine themselves in the presence of someone else they may never know or have an intimate relationship with.

It is through this truth and questioning with what the viewer bring to the image that the photograph communicates. Charles Sander Peirce argued that, “all communication takes place through the medium of signs, (Edwards, 2006). As photographs are a visual communication they are in themselves signs and it is those signs themselves and how they communicate that we shall look at in my next post, the last in this series about these thoughts on what the photograph is….

What is a Photograph – Part 4

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