I have often considered the question ‘what is a good photograph?’ The work this week suggests an answer is ‘it depends. The context in which a photograph is placed has an impact on its meaning. Change the context and it will often have an impact on the viewer. To answer the question also requires some understanding of the audience. For example an academic audience defined by some rules it has put together will have a very different view to a popular audience.
It is becoming clear to me the subjectivity of the question. A photograph that gets millions of likes on instagram is clearly a successful image if measured by relative volume of hits. There could be many reasons it is still considered by many as a bad photograph. A compulsion by people to look does not mean they think the picture is a good one. Consider 9/11 and the death of Alan Kurdi as examples.
Barthes coined the term analogon suggesting a photograph is a partial but incomplete technology derived representation of something that existed. It is probably as close to any representation we can get but it is missing a lot. It is difficult for us as a viewer to take in what the photograph denotes without first being overcome by our own connotations that are instantly added as we look. Our heads are full of memories, world views, prejudices, canned stories and we instantly in looking seek to match what we see with what we already know. Only a formal critical analysis process would take us back to an understanding of what the photograph denotes. Having completed that process we would then see that as we carried out an analysis of our understanding our ‘personal’ opinion carried the most weight the instant we looked. It is impossible to do other.
The Context and Audience for my Own Work
For my own work I need to consider the context and audience. For my Masters the context is an academic piece of work with the audience being the faculty at Falmouth University. It also needs to be exhibition or publishable standard so I do need to look at the external world. Based on my current proposal there are two contexts for the subject matter of my work. The first is capturing the whole experience of being alive through a number of distinctions created by Fritz Perls. Related to this is the subject of mindfulness. The photographic context arising from these subjects is how to represent photographically the idea of being alive and how to photograph mindfully.