Photography Representation of Reality

Keywords: representation vs reality


When we look into an image; we often have a tendency to forget that this is no image considered by a camera alternatively it's an instant of a full time income being captured rather trapped forever. In china it's a belief that photos trap soul of your person; maybe from the myth or possibly it's true also. Isn't it true that it is stealing the very essence of your life for that one fraction of time?

A photographer or a painter will try to tell the whole story of life, joy, misery, joy, tolerance, grace and everything the possible individual emotions encapsulated in a single frame. This is actually the masterpiece which he will try to recreate his entire life.

Photography emerged from European countries in early 19th century when ideas of positivist science came into concentrate. Positivism is convinced that the empirical truths can be established by visual evidence only. Empirical truths are facts that may be proven through experimentation by recreating the circumstances for identical outcomes. In framework of positivism the camera was taken up to be a clinical tool for registering actuality. Positivist theory presumed that a photograph is not subjective to the mindset of the photographer but is subjective to the audience who interprets the image.

Most of that time period we see a graphic and we always co-relate it with ourselves, how it is linked to us what is the relation it's got with this lives; these are the overall questions which comes in our head while interoperating any image shown on publication, magazine or Tv. Every image tries to tell some report behind it which is mainly depends upon individual to individual the way they interpret it, since it could take different meanings to the different people the type of aesthetic principles and taste they have got, what social, educational history they hold to understand its meaning and results.

" Photography changed subject into object, and even one might say, into a museum subject: in order for taking the first portrait (around 1840) the subject had to expect long poses under a glass roof in shiny sunlight ; to become an object made one suffer just as much as a surgical procedure ; a device was created, some sort of prosthesis invisible to the lens, which recognized and maintained the body in its passing to immobility: this headrest was the pedestal of the statue i would become, the corset of my imaginary substance. " - Roland Barthes (1982), Camera Lucida: Representation on Photography: (Fontana Paperbacks). p. 13

As said by Roland Barthes a French theorist; photography makes subject into an subject and photographer always performs with his medical devices like selection, framing and personalization to make it more attractive. It could be done through a lot of technological knowledge and techniques. In such a commercial world of advertising, movies and magazines everything is sold by selling thoughts shown in the images. The photographer must perform as an art director who will try to sell the thoughts through his visual effects on public. That's the reason success of famous brands and popularity of periodicals and newspapers is principally determined by powerful images. The image prices depend on its being unique, powerful, bizarre, shocking, escapades, different, exceptional.

According to Roland there are two levels of meaning of an image; a denotative and a connotative interpretation of a graphic. An image can denote certain evident truths. Denotative so this means means literal, descriptive interpretation. However the same image can connote culturally specific meaning. Connotative meaning will depend on cultural and historical context of the image that your viewers themselves have observed. In other words it's the viewer's own interpretation of image based on their own experience and beliefs in the ethnic environment the viewers is living. Hence a graphic which is just a representation of reality actually invokes facts that happen to be deeper than noticeable.

"In Barthes model, in addition to the two levels of so this means of denotation and connotation, that is the sign, which comprises the signifier and signified, which is the idea evoked by that term/image. in the Benetton ad, one interpretation could be that the burning car is the signifier and terrorism is the signified. The image (or phrase) and its own meaning jointly (the signifier and signified along form the sign.

Image/ sound expression - Signifier

Meaning - Signified = Hint"- Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright(2001), Practices of looking: An Benefits to Visible culture(Oxford: Oxford College or university Press), P. 19

So every image has got one signifier and its own meaning which we interpret is a signified which is add up to sign which means every image make us think what is the hidden interpretation behind it, and almost all of the time photographer make an effort to give that register that image or word which we see in newspaper publishers, mags or in tv commercials. In still photography photographer try to give these results by demonstrating certain amount of subjectivity and objectivity it straight hits the conscious mind and also try to hit the sub-conscious head of the interpreter. In most of the advertising campaign emphasis is given on masculinity and genders like Marlboro advertising they always include a cowboy heading on a horses they both are signifier of vitality and masculinity, in which a cowboy is shown together with hill taking drags of cigarette together with hill, A lot of the under wear advertising man is shown as powerful by showing top features of his body and masculinity it creates some sort of attraction, but in real life who wears underwear is not necessarily as powerful as shown in these ads. People always make an effort to co-relate themselves with these models. In girl accessories advertisements model is always beautiful looking filled with life wearing a good dress and using some products where they show she's become more beautiful after wearing certain product this image always brings about the sort of wish to look more beautiful. Photographer is obviously paid to make these kinds of powerful images to lure market.

Still photography can create surprise, adventure, fascination, disgust, anger, bafflement. The photograph considered by weegee in 1940s image of a school children who see a murder in the street captured a fascination in that child's eyes which fascinates the interpreter in a same manner the child is fascinated by that world. Still photography of nude girl or a guy is always a straightforward object of love-making; there is no subjectivity involved. It generally does not give anything misconception it is never shocking or adventurous it is merely taken to create need to have sex.

Barthes's principles are particularly suitable on evaluating the photographic truth; however it isn't very much suitable on film images and tv news images. As with those cases it is the music and the series of frames which makes a decision the meaning rather than a particular framework.

Ideology plays an essential role in how a graphic is perceived by the viewer. Ideologies are system of values that exists in all culture. It is a broad, shared sets of ideals and beliefs through which an individual lives in sets on complex interpersonal interactions. An ideology gives the viewer the understanding to view image of a partially filled cup as 'half filled' or 'half vacant'. Ideology runs hand in hand with Barthe's principle to denote the meaning of a graphic.

Ideologies takes on major role in interpretation of images it is different for different ethnicities based on their beliefs and values the way they live their life in particular society. One particular image can be adopted by one modern culture or ideology but it could be taboo for another group. Just like a picture of an pig on school literature or images is very normal for just one group of society but it could be grasped as a taboo in Muslim Ideologies. In cases like this I can say point of view of individuals differs from one culture or ideology to another which is a major fact how it will control the success of that image. Beliefs and group of rules is the major element in interpretation of images and videos.

"Photography is a sort primitive theatre, some sort of Tableau Vivant, a figuration of the motionless and made up face beneath which we see dead"- Roland Barthes (1982), Camera Lucida: Reflection on Picture taking: (Fontana Paperbacks). p. 32

In old time people used that can be played the personas of the plays where they used showing their thoughts by displaying different expressions and the target was to create episode before the public to draw out those emotions that was the necessity of the play but of their make-ups and dresses they won't be the same people that they portray in theatre. so as said by barthe's Photography is also kind of theatre where people poses and make an effort to imitate themselves by demonstrating best out of these the entire smiling faces if it's an image of a family group everyone will stand closer to each other possessing hands hugging and kissing so in photos people make an effort to show what meaning in should convey to the viewer it does not matter how much do they love one another or hate the other person the truth is.

"Charles Pierce worked with a relatively different model where the signifier ( Word/ Image ) is distinguished not only from the signified (interpretation) but also from the referent, or the thing itself. Furthermore pierce defined types of signs based on different kinds of romantic relationship between signifiers and signified, for illustration pierce made a variation between indexical, iconic, and symbolic symptoms. " Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright(2001), Procedures of looking: An Benefits to Visual culture(Oxford: Oxford School Press), P. 20

Iconic and symbolic signs or symptoms always plays a major role in Image world, For a good example picture of mother and child always gives the straight so this means of motherhood, love and affection it is universal it is recognized in every the dialects and by all the people. Picture of famous actress Marilyn Monroe can be an iconic icon of making love and beauty since very long time her iconic image hasn't improved.

In every picture the reality and representation is not necessarily same some pictures the way they are considered and how a photographer signifies it in leading of audiences is entirely dependent on his skills how he's going to customize this event and by doing selection and framing how it looks like; Here comes the manipulation part every picture is not offered equally an object to build subjectivity he must understand the right viewpoint positions and framing. This thing is very common in commercial world of adverts and movie making, director always aim for some audience and he raises certain issues to think what impact it'll give after adding audio and visual results and graphical results. In silent videos everything is indicated by showing feelings and body gesture of the character types. In Advertisements of Benetton in which a black female is nursing a white baby gives immediate impact of racism where in connotes a lot of meaning to different group of folks and each time this picture says different stories many people might interpret it is based on unity, slavery or other standard issues. In Advert of Hdfc standard bank they portray image of differing people from different countries which means they aren't catering one part of the world they are ready to serve people from different parts, cultural history and societies here comes the personalization. Every shape, color coding and record contributes to its so this means to differing people. Manipulation of Images is very common now days so we cannot say that it is a bit of evidence, techniques are used to show the different things in several way emphasis is given how to produce it better the maximum impact on masses.

The value of image is principally its authenticity, true thoughts, and invisible meanings. In television and news paperwork its value is how fast an issue has been protected and the channels those show the latest news or current occurrences before any channel becomes authentic news route; so success of each news, advert or movie is based on its authenticity how it impresses audiences and exactly how real it appears.


To interpret images we need to examine the visual words the image is speaking. The image consists of layers of fact and it depends in the viewer's capacity to decode the terms it's wanting to 'speak'. Reading and interpreting images is one way that people as viewers add by assign our culture to the interpreted so this means. Hence a graphic is a amalgamated of subjective and objective meanings as said by Marita Sturken

References: Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright(2001), Methods of looking: An Launch to Visual culture(Oxford: Oxford School Press), P. 20

Roland Barthes (1982), Camera Lucida: Reflection on Photography: (Fontana Paperbacks). p. 32

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