Reading Photographs- some initial thoughts


I thought I would share some initial thoughts about the opening pages of part 4 of the Context and Narrative course. I have a real interest in Language and a developing interest in semiology and have taken some tentative steps into understanding this whole area with a view to gaining a greater knowledge and understanding of this tenuous and slippery area of visual communication

I also have some working knowledge of language acquisition, semantics and the relationship between the spoken and the written in English. In a previous professional life I worked supporting young people with language acquisition and in particular the development of literacy skills in young people with significant cognitive impairment. I learned much in this work about the plasticity of the rules of verbal communication when in colloquial use. Whist there are some clear and established rules associated with language, in daily use these rules are very malleable. Indeed in practice the conventions of spoken language are subject to regular challenge and change. Belsey’s quote from Alice Through the Looking Glass illustrate this, but in reality, dialect, regional conventions and youth culture al make language far more about interoperation than translation.

If we are looking for some sense of the absolute in language we will perhaps only find it in the clinical sterility of computer and programming languages.

So what does this have to do with reading photographs? Well there is something highly subjective about the interpretation we bring to an image and as suggested in the ‘Death of the Author’ ideas in the previous section, what a photograph means lies somewhere between the makers intent and the viewers biography and perspective.

As I start out in this section o the course the thing that stands out most to me is that although languages written or spoken has complexity, it is serial, it follows and order, particularly written language, which however colloquial and nuanced you start at the beginning and read to end.

With an image I ask myself the question:

Where do you start first?


Belsay, C. (2002) Quouetd in Boothroyd, S.(2015)


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