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photograph


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[Greek ‘drawing with light’]

A still image of a visible phenomenon in the external world recorded using a camera through the agency of light. In semiotic terms, unedited photographic and filmic images are indexical (based on a direct causal connection) rather than simply iconic (based on resemblance)—though they can be termed iconic indexes (or indices). A photographic image is an index of the effect of light: it is not coincidental that photographs resemble their referents. The indexical character of photographs encourages interpreters to treat them as ‘objective’ and transparent records of ‘reality’. In this medium there is less of an obvious gap between the signifier and its signified than with non-photographic media. The resemblance is only partial, however. John Berger observed that ‘the photograph cannot lie, but…the truth it does tell…is a limited one.’ We need to remind ourselves that a photograph does not simply record and reproduce an event, but is only one of an infinite number of possible representations. Representational practices are always involved in selection, composition, lighting, focusing, exposure, processing, and so on. Sontag declared that ‘photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are.’ Thus, photographs are ‘made’ rather than ‘taken’ (see alsophotographic codes).

http://www.rleggat.com/photohistory/ A history of photography

Subjects: Media Studies.


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