Understanding Context-First blog post, making a start on the course!


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“The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood”

I am familiar with the word context and its various meaning , so I considered the notion within the confines of what it means about an image or set of images.

In its simplest sense I think we can say that what surrounds a photograph, to some extent , its physical location, has much to say about how we interpret the contents within the frame. The idea of what is in the frame, what the photographer chose to include (and not include) is influenced by where the image is seen. By location I mean, gallery wall, photobook, travel book, magazine, billboard hoarding. I could go on but the point i am making is that the there is a range of information to process, that leads top some understanding of the photographers intent.

That said as Barrett(1997) suggests in several articles, the External context of an image is central to the creation of meaning, he also comment that this is not always within the gift of the photographer, as an image may be appropriated by others for purposes other than the photographers intent.

Exploring the idea of context further I couldn’t help think of the Latin origins of the word itself. As a 50 something, it amuses me how much of all that Latin I was made to study, nearly 40 years ago, has come back to haunt me in the most positive of senses and I should perhaps regret the negativity I felt to it in my youth!

The word Context is a construction, probably in middle English from two Latin words, the first ‘con’ meaning to join or together and the word  ‘texere’ which means to weave. The terms ‘text’ and ‘textiles’ have a common origin in the Latin word texere.

I like the notion of context literally meaning:

‘weave together’

I am sure I will learn more as I work through the course material but I am particularly struck and mindful of Boothroyd’s (2015) statement in the opening page of the course:

‘It’s also  important to be alert to the messages contained in your own images so you don’t transmit unintended meaning or fail to recognise your own visual narrative.

This seems pretty important advice at this stage in the course and going forward


Barrett, T. (1997) Photographs and Contexts in Goldblatt,D. & Brown, L (Eds) (1997) Op CitBurgin, V. (1982) Thinking Photography, Macmillan London

Boothroyd, S. (2015) Context and Narrative, Open College of the Arts, Barnsley

Gwynne, N. (2014) Gwynne’s Latin, Ebury Press, London





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