Does the camera ever lie ??? (Part 2)

Photography as Evidence.

Lecture: 9th November 2010

As it is getting nearer to the hand in date of the essay, I have re-visited the question that my essay will be based on, this is: Discuss the limitations of photographs in providing a “truthful” image of the “real” world.

During this lecture we have had to take in a lot of information and consider the question carefully.

Photography is considered to have a greater credibility attached to it than other forms of image making, this is because the photographer is present at the time of the event, whereas drawings and paintings can be made after the event and rely heavily on the artists memory and interpretation.

Lewis Hine

Lewis Hine was an American sociologist and photographer. Hine worked for The Russell Sage Foundation which aimed to work towards the improvement of social and living conditions in America. Here he would photograph children that would be forced to work in factories and mines, in awful conditions, as part of a political campaign to stop the children being used and to get them educated. The images that he produced were used as propaganda. It helped to change the laws on child labour.

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In the 21st Century, we are always under some kind of surveillance, whether it be in a Shopping Centre, CCTV on the streets, or even when we travel and have to use our passports.

Sometimes this can be seen as an intrusion into our personal lives and other times it can be used as a great tool to prevent or catch those who have committed a crime, such was the case with the Jamie Bulger kidnappers back in February 1993.

As discussed in the lecture passport photos are not always a good source for detection, as a typical passport will last for 10 years and a persons appearance, hair and weight can alter drastically in that period of time.

To further my research, I shall be looking at Susan Sontag – On Photography.

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.

Does the camera ever lie ???

Discuss the limitations of photographs in providing a “truthful” image of the “real” world.

For as long as photography has existed, there has always been the notion of can we really believe what we see in an image presented to us? This is ever more prevalent with the rise and popularity of digital photography and the various image manipulating software widely available today.

When looking at and assessing an image, there are many factors that one should take into account:

Why was the image produced?

  • Who was the intended audience?
  • Has the image been manipulated in anyway?
  • Has the image been staged?

Different images will conjure up different feeling and emotions in different people, depending on their beliefs, lifestyle and life experiences. So an image saying one thing to one individual could be conveying a very different message to another. Everybody’s sense of reality is different.

Another consideration to make when analysing an image is “what was the photographers purpose for taking the image?”. Images are taken everyday for a wide variety of reasons:


  • Advertising
  • Photojournalism
  • Fashion

It is widely considered that documentary photography and photojournalistic photography to be the most “real” photography and that fashion and advertising photography to be the most heavily edited and manipulated, this is in order to appeal to a certain audience and to sell products.

Example of Air Brushing an image – Can we always believe what we see?

Air Brushing

This is why it is important to take these factors into account when considering the limitations of photographs in providing a “truthful” image of the “real” world.

Semiotics for Beginners


Link to Daniel Chandler’s “Semiotics for Beginners”


Denotation, Connotation & Myth

Lecture: 19th October 2010

I have found this method of de-constructing an image rather useful. It enables you to look at the image in more depth and possibly read into the image a lot more successfully. By learning how to de-construct another artists image, I believe that this will enable you to be able to look to your own work and help you to create a more informed piece of work.

Migrant Mother, 1936


Content signs – Mother & 2 Children.

Position Signs – Close up, clear focus on face.

Treatment Signs – Black & White Image, Mother looking into foreground, Children with their heads turned away. Main focus on subjects, little or no background.


The mother in the picture does not look happy. She has a look of despair & desperation. The children have their heads turned, suggesting that they do not want to look at the camera. They appear to be upset and seeking comfort and reassurance from their mother. For me, this picture creates an air of empathy for the subjects within the image.