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Under tutor guidance, students will develop their critical reading skills, precis writing skills, academic writing skills, and articulation skills through the completion of a range of supervised tasks.

  • Task 1: Carry out both a preçis and a critical review of one of the set readings from the module programme, in which you outline the main arguments made by the author and comment on their usefulness.
  • Task 2: Discuss the idea of a history of photography, making reference to different approaches to the subject. How does modernism and postmodernism inform photographic practice?
  • Task 3: Carry out a visual analysis of an image provided in the seminar using lecture & seminar materials to guide you.
  • Task 4: Select your own image. Discuss what it represents, by carrying out a visual analysis, making reference to relevant theoretical materials from recommended texts. Build a set of useful notes that will contribute to the construction of your critical writing (see Assignment Two, below).

Evolution of Photography and Discovery of Principles

The evolution of photography was based on the discovery of the two principles of photography- the ‘camera obscura’ image projection and with the understanding of the fact that certain substances are altered and changed with their exposure to light and the change in the angles. It has helped in the development of the chief concepts of photography. At certain points of time, images seem to be mirrored and mostly the virtual side of the image, which is captured, is felt. Thomas Wedgewood made an attempt of capturing a permanent image in the year 1800, which was unsuccessful though. However, the attempt has helped in the undertaking of the steps for the development of photography over the years. Detailed photography has helped in the undertaking of the steps that are necessary for perfecting the images that are captured.

The discussion aims at the understanding of the theories of photography through the analysis of an image. It will help in determining the theories and their application on the photography. It will also help in determining the effectiveness of the theories through their application on the captured image.  


The study of the signs is an important factor that helps in the understanding of the perception of the artist relating to paintings, writings or photography. It is an important factor, which helps in the proper interpretation of the artistry that is being revealed by the artist through the work (Russell & Diaz, 2013).  The ideas and the philosophy that is being presented by the artist is dependent on the social interpretations and the perceptions of the viewer. Therefore, signs play a major role in the interpretation of the artistic forms. Ferdinand de Saussure, through his theories based on linguistics, has evaluated the importance of the signs in determining and interpreting the artistry. On the other hand, Roland Barthes developed the theory that is proposed by Ferdinand de Saussure, which has helped in the thorough understanding of the study of the signs for interpreting the artistry (Tucker, 2013). Semiology, the study of signs, has facilitated in the proper understanding as it helps in bringing to the surface the deeper meaning that is being represented by the artist through the work.  Photography, however, is different from the other art forms based on the type of representation it provides. The understanding of the perception and the ideology of the photographer is shaped by the social interpretation. It helps in determining the message that resides within the photograph (Hayes, 2014).

Importance of Signs in Interpreting the Artistry

The photograph that is being selected for this discussion represented a bus terminal where two veteran people are having their favorite beverage. A child can also be noticed in its cot, which is surrounded by wastes (Wells, 2015). The literal meaning that could be derived from the picture might simply be a scenario of a bus stop, which is filled with litter. The most intriguing part of the image is based on its representation of a street life and the feeling of nonchalance that is observed in the expression of the veteran couple. The litter that surrounds the cot is again an important portrayal that is considered in this photograph, which might imply the ill effects of wastes and litter on the lives of the infants (Wagstaff, 2013). The social condition of the place is also being portrayed as the people there seemed to be unaware of the impacts of the litter, which might affect the sanitation and the hygiene.


The representation of the imagery is two-fold based on the interpretation that the viewer undertakes. The social understanding of the issues and the people’s outlook towards the issues is understood through the image (Bate, 2016). The signs played a major role in the interpretation of the image and thereby determine the truth that is reflected through the portrayal. The application of Semiology has helped in the proper interpretation of the ideas and the views that are represented by the artist through the construction of this image (Costello & Iversen,  2012). According to Vilém Flusser, the superficial nature of photography is supported with the perception of the viewer and therefore signs and symbols in the imagery helps in the clear understanding of the content of the image. The meager wandering of the viewer over the image supports the abstracted dimensions of an image. Vilém Flusser has predicted this concept as ‘Scanning’ in Towards a Philosophy of Photography (Flusser, 2013). It provides a thorough understanding of the concepts of photography, which is based on the symbols and its varied two-dimensional implications on the mind of the viewer (Art.ucla.edu. 2018). There are intentions that are being impacted through the scanning of an image by the viewer. One of the intentions is based on the idea that the image supports and the other most varied intention is based on the observer’s understanding of the image. Therefore, the superficial nature of photography is established on the two mentioned intentions. As for the concerned photograph, the image can be literally taken as a meager image of a bus stop. Whereas, the meaning that lay underneath is based on the idea that the artist desired to portray through the depiction of the image (Smith  & Lefley, 2015).

Analysis of the Image of a Bus Terminal

According to Barthes, the implications of a photograph can be traced in two ways. In one way, the photograph might carry a social implication and on the other hand, it is more focused on a personal message that is being conveyed through the image. The concerned image of the bus stop also applies both the ways for the clear understanding of the image (Seligmann, 2017). The duality of the image helps in the clear understanding of the concept that is used by the artist for the representation of the issues faced by the urban people due to the open dumping. The awareness of sanitation and hygiene measures is being questioned through the picture. The proper study of the signs of the image will be helping the observer to delve deeper and thereby understand the meaning withstanding the superficiality of the expression. According to Flusser, the photograph is the only real entity, which contradicts the unreal world or the programs that are installed in the cameras (Art.ucla.edu. 2018). ‘The image behind an image’ is an important concept that is being identified in photography. It is relating to the kind of study that the image is subjected to and thereby the dependence of the image on its nature is an important factor that is considered while studying the inmost idea that is portrayed by the artist through the construction. According to Benjamin, the study of photography is based on the physiognomic realities that can be perceived through the photographs (Flusserstudies.net. 2018). The careful study helps in enhancing the understanding of the issues that are related to the innate meaning of the photographs. Therefore, a photograph can also be used for mass consciousness. The concerned photograph for this discussion has helped in the understanding of the issues that are being faced by the people due to the open dumping of the wastes and the litter thereby affecting the health and hygiene. Superficially, it might seem more like a meager bus stop where the elderly couple awaits the arrival of the vehicle, having their cup of beverage. It also focuses on an infant in the cot, surrounded by the litter. However, the image simply does not portray the situation it also helps in determining the consciousness of the people relating to the issues that are faced by the humans due to the open dumping (Palmer, 2013). The usage of the picture as a medium for generating mass consciousness is used recently in the printed media- newspapers, reports and journals for the clear understanding of the conditions. The picture of the bus stop helps in determining the wastes that are being dumped in the urban open spaces and the nonchalant attitude of the people towards the same is also being noticed in the picture.

Duality and Consciousness in Photography


Szarkowski, in his work “The Photographer’s Eye”, has helped in the understanding of the fact about the photographs as to how they look like. The different perceptions that are required to perceive an image and the ideology of the photographer are important factors that are being discussed in the work by Szarkowski (Art.ucla.edu. 2018). He emphasized more on the photograph as they are supposed to be more realistic than the world or the cameras, more like Flusser. Time is again another factor that determines the effectiveness of the picture. In case of generating mass consciousness, as the concerned picture for this discussion, time plays an important role in making good use of the image for enhancing the understanding of the people and making them aware of the impacts (Flusser, 2012). The social understanding helps in the clear interpretation of the image based on the ideology that is being used by the photographer while capturing the image. The vague perceptions of the image might lead to various misinterpretations. However, the consciousness of the people based on the social conditions will help them in determining the deeper meaning of the image. The technological advancements have also affected the growth of the photography, which is being supported by the modernists with the belief of bringing in improvements in the systems (Rubinstein & Sluis, 2013). Photography being a self-conscious art form has helped in the proper undertaking of the steps for the proper representation of the image. The social issues that are portrayed through the image have helped in the understanding of the issues that the society faces based on the lack of awareness relating to sanitation and hygiene. William Mitchell believed in the normal and unmanipulated photography where the substance is not edited to fit in the subject that the artist focuses on. However, Manovich opposed the theory in order to support digital photography, which is considered to be more effective than the traditional measures undertaken by the then photographers (Schwendener, 2016). The transition from traditional to digital photography has helped in sticking on to the theories of photography with a tinge of modifications based on the technological improvements and the change in the requirements of the people.


The picture that is being taken as the center of discussion of this discussion clearly evokes the feeling of social awareness that the artist aims at undertaking. The proper understanding of the picture will help in determining the measures of waste management. It works more like a social awareness program, which is aimed at bringing in changes in the social structure. The importance of the picture through the proper understanding of the same is analyzed in this discussion. The perceptions of the people, the perceiving power and the mentality affect the image. It helps in determining the ideology, which survives deep within the image. The intention plays a major role in determining the aspect of the change in the styles of photography from the traditional to the digital based on the improvements in the technology. Although, photography is a subject of distortion based on the psychology and the perceiving nature of the observer, the essence of photography is retained through the duality that it exercises. The concerned image of the bus stop might be misunderstood in a several ways, depending on the psychology of the observer. However, the real essence of the photograph is based on the ideology with which the photographer clicked the image. The intention of the photographer comes face to face while understanding the effectiveness of the image to create a distortion. Alternatively, the perception of the photographer and the basic ideology of the photographer sustains until the end in making the people aware of the social conditions.

References

Art.ucla.edu. (2018). Theories of photography. Art.ucla.edu. Retrieved 8 January 2018, from https://www.art.ucla.edu/photography/downloads/Photography%20Theory-ch1-Kriebel%202.pdf 

Bate, D. (2016). Photography: the key concepts. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Costello, D., & Iversen, M. (2012). Introduction: photography between art history and philosophy. Critical Inquiry, 38(4), 679-693.

Flusser, V. (2012). Towards a theory of techno-imagination. Philosophy of Photography, 2(2), 195-201.

Flusser, V. (2013). Towards a philosophy of photography. Reaktion Books.

Flusserstudies.net. (2018). Vilém Flusser’s Theories of Photography and Technical Images in a U.S. Art Historical Context. Flusserstudies.net. Retrieved 8 January 2018, from https://www.flusserstudies.net/sites/www.flusserstudies.net/files/media/attachments/schwendener-vilem-flusser-theories-photography.pdf

Hayes, D. (2014). Phototherapy and therapeutic photography in a digital age.

Palmer, D. (2013). A Collaborative Turn in Contemporary Photography?. Photographies, 6(1), 117-125.

Rubinstein, D., & Sluis, K. (2013). The Digital Image in Photographic Culture. The photographic image in digital culture, 22-40.

Russell, A. C., & Diaz, N. D. (2013). Photography in social work research: Using visual image to humanize findings. Qualitative Social Work, 12(4), 433-453.

Schwendener, M. (2016). The photographic universe: Vilém Flusser's theories of photography, media, and digital culture. City University of New York.

Seligmann, M. (2017). “Fotografia é a destruição da história”: Flusser e a vitória da memória sobre a história na era das imagens técnicas. Pandaemonium Germanicum, 21(33), 1-15.

Smith, P., & Lefley, C. (2015). Rethinking Photography: histories, Theories and education. Routledge.

Tucker, J. (2013). Nature exposed: photography as eyewitness in Victorian science. JHU Press.

Wagstaff, P. (2013). Photography and the Representation of History in Georges Perec's Ellis Island: Tales of Vagrancy and Hope. Modernism/modernity, 20(1), 33-43.

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