Why is ‘Context’ such an important part of the assessment criteria ?
The meaning of photographs depends on the context , where the photograph is displayed and published, the caption or the text with it, the sequence of images surrounding it.
Barrett suggests that we interpret pictures according to three different types of information: information in the picture, information surrounding the picture and information about the way the picture was made. He calls these the internal context, external context and the original context.
In the course work we are given a link to an online pdf to read by Terry Barrett. I had trouble trying to find it, computer says ‘no’ issues but I did find ‘Principles for interpreting Photographs’ by Terry Barret which I downloaded and printed this off for reference. I find reading paper better than a screen. From that link I eventually found ‘Photographs and Context’ which was what I was initially looking for.
It was a very interesting read, I had to translate it into my simplistic way of thinking.
I have written a full description in my written learning log which I will add scanned pages to assignment 5 if required.
Some points that I highlighted with in the essay
The meaning of any photograph is highly dependent on the context in which it appears
This statement addresses misinterpretation of a photograph.
In the galleries the photograph hangs matted, framed, and under glass with the usual wall label of the artist and date. The ‘Channel of Transmission’.
This refers to where we see the photograph and how it is represented to the viewer whether it be published in a journal, magazine or on a gallery wall. How is the photograph transmitted
The texts that surround the photograph eliminate any residual ambiguity and decide the meaning of the picture.
Again texts can aid with interpretation
The photographs placement int the gallery is above all a tribute to the sensibilities of its maker, It is compared with other photographs and with the collected and preserved works of other modern masters in other art media.
This is related to placing photographs which were not made for the art world for example, security camera images or scientific images.
These and the various uses to which photographs have been put are instances of category displacements: with the addition of surrounding or superimposed text, images are switched from the category of news to moral indictment ; by transferring a photograph from a laboratory file to an oversized coffee table book, Science becomes Art.
There are lots of images now which are used as an example of Scientific imagery becoming art , Fractals from a spectrum microscope, snowflakes, macroscopic imagery.
Displacement of photographs from moral categories to aesthetic categories, however are cause for concern.
The concern is showing the distress and finding beauty in it ,Aesthetic pleasure from the information. People enjoying the images of deformness and brutality and placing them as piece of Artwork.
move us because they document a suffering which causes our indignation and distance us because they are superb photographs of agony, conforming to surrealist standards of beauty
the medium which conveys distress ends by neutralizing it. Camera miniaturize experience, transform history into spectactle. As much as they create sympathy, photographs cut sympathy, distance the emotions.
Contextual displacements as removing photographs from prisons and hanging them on museum walls. “When viewed in their new context, the museum or gallery, photographs cease to be ‘about’ their subjects in the same direct or primary way; they become studies in the possibilities of photography.”
What is art ? it goes on to say that photographers will become the representation of a subject. World War 2 is synonomus with Capa, Horse in motion will be Muybridge. Do I agree with this ? to some extent, Yes. That is what we remember
“Photography as a Univerasal Language.”
Pictures can translate word symbols
Pictures can clarify vague Ideas ( ikea instructions)
Pictures make verbal description clearer,
Pictures can…. prevent the development of inaccurate generalizations
Photography can be used as scientific evidence.
If we can match the right pictures with words or expressions, we have meaning. As with words, the meanings of photographs rest to a large extent on the uses to which they are put.
It is easy to alter the meanings of a photograph, generally by altering the contexts in which it is shown, specifically by adding text.
In formulating interpretations or in adjudicationg among implicit or explicit interpretations, three sources of information are available for examination: information evident within the picture, informtion surrounding thepicture in its presentation, and information about the pictures making.
Each of these intersectswith thr others and influencesour experience of pictures; each of these contains potential evidence for positing meaning; each of these should be examined before final conclusions are drawn
These sources maybe called the picture’s “internal context,” external context,” and ” original context.”
Internal context includes the picture, its title,date, and maker.
External Context refers to the picturespresnetational environment.
Original context refers to the picture’s casual environment, namely, that which was physically and psychologically present to the maker at the time the picture was taken.
I like order and process so for me these are guidelines on how to interpret a photograph, it is something to aim for when scrutinising my own images. I get that a photograph can be used and manipulated in different ways if the channel which it is delivered is altered.
Contextual investigations of photographs are particulary important because of the nature of photography. Because photographs are segments excised from large real- world contexts, one ought to attempt to place the pictured segment back into the whole for several reasons
one needs to realise what the photographer has done to the original situation, what the photograph is about, understanding the differences between the picture and reality
The appreciation of photographs is often dependant on recognising and understanding the transformations the photographer has wrought in the excising the segmentin order to make it aesthetically noteworthy rather than routine and mundane.
The viewer who wants to understand and appreciate the photograph needs to see what fresh and significant relationship the photographermay have brought about the means selected to make them manifest.
The “eye selects, rejects, organises, discriminates, associates, classifies, analyses, constructs. It does not so much mirror as take and make; and what it takes and makes it sees not bare , as items without attributes, but as theings, as food, as people, as enemies, as stars, as weapons. Nothing is seen nakedly or naked.”
This paragraph I understand to be about how the photographers eye and the viewers eye already has preconcieved ideas, what is good, what is bad. What subjects are supposed to look like. Your eye and brain will try and make sense of the image before you have chance to investigate further. Context adds to the creditbility of an image.