What is?


What is a Photograph?

Throughout the entire year we will be looking at ways breaking down an image into something tangible that we can analyse and understand. We need to look at this from both a logical and factual perspective as well as emotional.

I have detailed below some of the methods of deconstruction and added my own understandings

It is 2D, it flattens the world.

The image is flat but we are still able to see it as a 3 dimensional scene. This is due to a combination of our understanding of the physical environment and the method the photographers chosen method of composition. There are many rules of composition and these serve to bring a logical form and shape that the mind recognises and finds comfortable. If presented with an image where the elements are at odds with our understanding of the world or jumbled and incoherent the mind looks for patterns or structure so it can understand. While it is doing this it can be missing important aspects to the image or it may just move on to something else. This means that it is important when creating images to consider the composition carefully.

It has edges

There is a physical limitation to the image, they are not endless and contain no more that was in the original frame when the image was taken. But these parameters can be an aid to the creative process when used effectively. In addition to providing a frame they can also be a subliminal barrier. When people look around at an image eventually the eye will wander to the edge, a white border surrounding the image provides a good way to direct the eye back into the picture and keeps in focused on what matters. The frame can also form an important part of the overall message the photograph is attempting to convey. We all know that the scene is just a fragment of the overall environment so an image of a person staring out beyond the frame to something unseen could be significant or provoke intrigue and curiosity in the viewer.

It is Still & Fixed in time.

The photo as a physical object is finite and can perish as it endures the passage of time but the content of the image is frozen and can be viewed and examined slowly. This allows the photographer to communicate at various levels with more subtle points only revealing themselves after closer examination.

It has denotations and connotations

Denotations are the facts of an image, the specifics that you can see. These could be a person or object and represent a good place to start when deconstructing an image. However it is important to not speculate as they then become connotations.

The connotations are what the viewer thinks the image could mean based on what they see and what they may know about the image. Without understanding the context of the picture then the speculation could be inaccurate.

It is a truth

This may be considered controversial as images are easily manipulated but unless the entire content has been fabricated there is always some sort of truth. Quite simply the camera can only take a picture of what it is aimed at and this in itself is a truth.

Continuing our examination of images in order to better understand and deconstruct them we took a deeper look at what a portrait really is. Although we often refer to the orientation of an image as either portrait on landscape this in itself does not actually define it. It is through the content that you can decide if the image is a portrait or not.

Normally a portrait will have a picture of a person in it but this is not exclusive and there can be many other styles and types.

What is a Portrait?

Winston Churchill by Yousuf Karsh - Dec 1941.

This image above was taken by Yousuf Karsh who was a remarkable portrait photographer. and used light very well to his advantage. This image is what we normally think of as a portrait and it offers a good reflection on its subject who is portrayed in the way we like to think of him. It was a staged image and the subject was aware of the photographer so he could present himself as he wished.

Masks - 1996

This next image by Elinor Carucci is in the landscape format but still represents a portrait, Although at least one of the people in the image are aware of the photographer the image is still a good represetation of a cuasual and un-posed photo. This sort of portrait is very effective and revealing a truth about a person or ‘capturing there essence’ and can make powerful and moving images.


A portrait does not always have to show the face, in this example you can only see the feet but this can still reveal a lot about a person. There is a plaster and a bandage around one foot which shows a sign of recent injury and the feet look like they belong to a older woman. They also shows signs of hard wear and this person probably spends a lot of time on their feet, walking or keeping busy and they probably do not wear enclosed footwear.


A portrait does not even have to have an image of a person, this portrait contains a hat and a uniform. This is telling us something about the person it belongs to, their job and passions and they would have likely had to work hard to have earned the right to wear such a uniform.

Fashion, Advertising, Media, Documentary, Journalistic, Historical recording, Family and Art, the portrait appears everywhere in our daily lives. It is a form of expression and communication that has been around almost as long as human have walked the earth. From early cave paintings to 3D lifelike holographic representations the portrait will continue to have a major bearing, not just on photography but in art and almost every part of out lives.

What is a Landscape?


The common preconception of the landscape usually comes in the form of the stunning scenery of some spectacular view taken at sunrise or sunset. Offering us a breath-taking snap shot of nature’s majesty but landscape photography is much more than this and can shine a light into the ugliness of the environmental disregard for our planet.

Chris Killip - Tyneside 1975


Like portraits it is not the orientation of the image that determines the classification but the content. A landscape image can be taken indoors, they can include people and they can be square or even in a portrait form. For years photographers have been utilising this style to reveal hidden or ignored issues that are occurring on a daily basis.

A Landscape is a window onto our own environment, a narrative on the transitional nature of our human altered world.

Edward Burtynsky - Oil - 2009


Landscapes are a core part of all imagery and as a result the landscape plays a major role in the ubiquitous nature of imagery in our lives. Art, News, Media, Advertising,  Journalism, Social Documentary are just some of the uses for this style and I’ll be keeping this in mind as I progress through my recent assignments.


A photograph, from the greek words Photos (light) and Graphos (Drawing) is simply just that. A form of Radiation, captured and stored using a chemical or electronic process. Beyond that there is only what a photograph means, what it shows us and how it moves us. There are 3 main areas of any photograph, The photographer, The Subject and The Viewer and each of these play its role in its definition, from utilitarian to Art or both, it is a form of communication that rises above the language barrier to speak directly to our conscience. with a depth and complexity of meaning that can be overwhelming and it can be hard to fully contextualise or grasp the concepts of an image.

A photograph is a relationship, you have no choice but to trust it and it can lie to you, cheat manipulate and mislead you, but equally it can be motivational, inspirational and reveal a world beyond anything which we had imagined. Photographs are entwined with every aspect of our lives, they are on every corner, on every page and every screen, they are an inescapable part of our world and their best feature is that infidelity is positively encouraged.


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