Intertextuality – Photographic Codes

Intertextuality. Photographic codes – when is a portrait not a portrait?

Lecture – 2nd November 2010

Codes are ways that we can read a photograph and to understand it. Within an image there will be a style, this can be shown in the lighting, such as “Hollywood” style lighting. The image will be of a certain genre – this could be Landscape or Documentary in style.

Photographic codes are used to communicate to the viewer. These codes can be Cultural, Technical or Aesthetic. Within the images, text may be contained. This could be in the form or the written word, images or sounds.


Intertextuality makes reference to other texts that have been used in the past, these will have been borrowed from other art works. The photographer will have been influenced in someway by art works and images that they have seen. There is a sense that no work produced is truly original, just recycled.

Some examples of Rankin’s work

Intertextuality – Various elements that relate to previous material

Appropriation -In the visual arts, to appropriate means to adopt, borrow, recycle or sample aspects (or the entire form) of man-made visual culture. []

Using material from other sources other than the artists/photographers own by:

  • extracting
  • reproducing
  • re-contextualisation
  • parody

Faucault & Barthes have argued “the death of the author”

Authorship – The origin or originator of a written work, plan, etc

Portrait Definition

What is a Portrait?

A portrait expresses the character of a person/subject, possibly beyond the details of the physical appearance. It can reveal the hidden signs of the person, or seeing the person in a completely new light. The portrait can be of an individual, group or of oneself.

Portraiture can be taken in a studio with various different lighting set-ups and props, but can also be taken outside in the natural environment.

A portrait does not necessarily have to flatter the subject.

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