Pierce gives signs three categories;
Iconic; signs that is someway or another resemble the item they purport to be. The picture of a bicycle – it’s not a bike but it we understand what it means from what it resembles.
Indexical; These have a direct link to the object at their heart, if not directly resembling them. A footprint in the snow indicates the presence of a person, the bending trees telling us wind is present.
Symbolic; These signs have a meaning based on how we understand them, through a shared cultural understanding, such as a group of letters forming a word and then a sentence or traffic lights, the colour of which we understand as a sign to tell us how we should approach them.
The photograph can be all three of these signs. Iconic as they resemble what one takes the photograph of, sometimes symbolic, as the photograph, “of an assassinated political leader carried in a demonstration can symbolize a struggle for justice. (Edwards, 2006) And they are indexical as they are the result of the light bouncing off the object of the photograph so they have a direct link and resemble it.
So the photograph is many things, indeed some not covered here, but however we interpret or look at them they are a combination of the nature and man’s need to control it and form the object they create and they are a mechanism with which to communicate and which creates a discourse based on how we understand the signs that they are.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my thoughts on what a photograph is – if you have any thoughts, you can always drop a line on the facebook page.
Until next time…..