Reading and interpreting photographic
To anyone interested in better understanding how to read
and perceive images on the screen compared to seeing them
in a publication or on a wall.
With the rise of digital photography, nowadays
millions of photos are produced every day introduced on the
screen and in cybernetic communication networks. Most of the
people who produce these images are unaware that a photo generally
needs to be linked to others or to a context, just as a word
or a sound, otherwise it runs of the risk of not being anchored,
of losing its significance and its meaning.
An individual who
observes an image taken by someone else or representing someone
other than the viewer can only imagine the photographer’s intentions, but if nothing in the
image strikes the viewer’s attention, it will simply
be forgotten. Furthermore, there are millions of images to
see. The photographer’s intentions perhaps cannot be
understood, unless the creator is present, has written a
text, or recorded an audio explanation, or else the material
is well published. Consequently, the publication of images
has been of such importance for photographers, due to the
fact that it can give meaning to their ideas.
Most photos floating
around on public Internet sites are arranged in systems of
templates to facilitate their classification and management.
This arrangement is decided by the website programmer who
usually thinks only in terms of functionality.
As Peter Marx
commented in editorial
“Each photo is reformatted and re-contextualized based
on the will of Facebook, without paying any attention to
the photographer’s intentions. The page is created
via software that captures data and commentaries from a large
number of users who are not familiar with the photographers
or their intentions. The software determines size, formats,
colors, organization, and order based on its own internal
rules. Furthermore, the system adds meta-data to the photo
which help (or confuse) in the process of interpreting the
image. Something similar occurs in all online social networks
This makes us wonder how many images are adrift,
tucked away on hard-drives without being classified, or are
classified under criteria distinct from that of the photographer.
This is not to deny the existence of interesting approaches
published online and the fact that many individuals who never
before had a forum for expression now have an opportunity to
share their images. Nevertheless, online publication is highly
confusing in general.
The photographer has a commitment to his
work, whether he is a professional or an amateur, and that
is to communicate ideas by means of images. However, there
are new circumstances that merit reflection, as Peter Marx
added in the same editorial:
“Photographers must see themselves
as creators of visual images. Just as screenplay writers, they
are at the beginning of the process, but very rarely or never
are they involved in the final stages when their work is seen
by someone. This can be frustrating, but technology increasingly
takes more power away from creators of content. These same
frustrations are shared by musicians, filmmakers, artists,
and anyone whose creative medium may be digitalized.
can still maintain some influence, but they certainly have
Earlier it was understood that the photographer
was not merely the one who activated the shutter. He or she
was the one who researched what to photograph, who reflected
on how to shoot it, and later selected the best images to transmit
his or her ideas, and finally knew where and how to display
them so that his or her vision could be conveyed as clearly
As Diego Goldberg stated in editorial
“This is producing a slow (?), but inexorable, exodus
leading to electronic media. And even when the paper made
from tree pulp is transmuted to paper with electronic ink
and wishes to continue to be called paper, the fact is that
it will be one of the new ways that screens will be adopted.
Because that’s the idea: e-ink, i-phone, tablet, computer,
TV, flat or projected screen, we are getting the idea that
this will be the surface for the dissemination of information
and these will be the places where photography will continue
It is too obvious and requires no explanation: a
single image cannot explain a complete subject. Not all photos
have the same “value,” whether due to their form
or content. Size matters a lot. Each image needs an ideal
size to express itself.
A story, no matter what media it may
be in—text, film,
TV, music—has a dramatic structure. It has a beginning
and end, development, emphasis, important elements, and others
less so, central and secondary themes, characters, moods,
and so forth. They are all tools that whoever is telling
the story uses to transmit what he or she wishes to say in
the most effective way.
Looking at a photo is a “voluntary” act and
the time that one chooses to spend gazing at each one can
be decisive. One pauses, really bores into an image, and
tries to read, understand, and discover it. Information needs
to be deciphered. This triggers ideas and feelings and at
the same time this leads to it remaining recorded in one’s
memory. Here the power of the fixed image is synthesized.
is the work of programmers, designers, publishers, photographers,
and writers. The use of photography in this new medium needs
to be rethought. We need to find other ways of telling our
stories that go beyond a mere sequence of images.
is undergoing extraordinary growth, but if we do not reorganize
its use in the media into some sort of hierarchy, it will remain
a mere ancillary illustration decorating a webpage or a castrated
version of a television program.”
About an hour.
The speaker must have knowledge of photography, the history
of photographic images, and needs to do direct research
with the creators of Heresies to understand the project
and be able to explain it fully.
A video projector and computer, depending on the speaker’s