What is a photograph – Part 1

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What is a photograph – Part 1

The photograph is, without doubt much more than the,’thing’ defined in the dictionary. I adore the works of a number of people who have spent many more hours than I cogitating on this very things.

As I enter the world of this blog, a communication tool in itself I thought exploring what the photograph is, based on my experience and the works of those I admire for their insight in to the answer to the question in the title would be a fitting start.

Amongst the wide range of literature on the subject there are many answers. To enable us to answer within the scope of this blog we shall look at a select number of relevant views.

A photograph is, ‘at its most basic level, a picture, likeness or facsimile obtained by photography.’ (Clarke, 1997).

Taking a further step back in defining an answer to the question above, we look at the actual word, ‘Photograph,’ which comes from the Greek for light, ‘Phos’ (Photo) and ‘Graphe’ which translates to writing or drawing. Understanding the two parts of the word forms a good basis on which to answer the question, ‘what is a photograph?’

This breakdown of the word forms the initial basis on which we can seek to understand the photograph. We have the light, an element of nature and the thing that all photographers use in order to create the graphe, the visual language, writing and drawing, the human element which, with the use of a variety of devices, we seek on the most literal level to use to make a record of what we see.

Writing can take many forms from a narrative to a documentary record or a poem or even one’s diary. We can find examples mirroring this in photography with storytelling, documentary record, art and snapshots. But as with all writing, the text on the page is just a collection of symbols used to represent what the writer is attempting to get across. In this way the photograph is a visual language, one that we will explore in a later post.

Until the next post…..

What is a photograph – Part 1