Framing The World Through My Photographs

Brief Summary Of The Reading

Sontag Notes

  • American, 1973
  • Comparison between photographs and paintings the evolution of image making
  • Lots of referencing to other films and texts
  • Doesn’t have an overarching theme, gives you quotes and different points
  • Looks at the need of a camera in society especially in countries like China and Japan were they work alot when they done work they go to lots of new places and document it by photographing it.

(Susan Sontag- On Photography)


  • Written in French originally, in 1920
  • Two main ways of looking at a photograph
  • Look at him for essay writing
  • Punctum – the special something but you can’t quite say what.

Photography and evidence:


  • Really important theorist, photography has become institutionalised, used to convey power
  • Assumes you know nothing about what he describes, gives a lot of confidence, power, evidence and the state
  • Focused theory, we behave ourselves if we are being watched, structure of power, laying down a law of authority
  • Uses photography as evidence, to support facts opposite of Barthes which describes only an emotional response
  • Good way to read Tagg, cover the first and last page, you know the context and then the way he concludes his views
  • Relates to August Sander’s work, Sander photographed ‘types’ of people
  • Written in 1988, a little bit out-dated but it talks about history rather than a present day therefore it can still be valid


  • Aesthetic and anaesthetic debate, documentary debate (can a photographic do it’s job as well as being beautiful? Is one state sacrificed to achieve the other)
  • Brings up the photographers, Sebastio Salgado, brings up two different opinions, is Salgado’s work too beautiful to take seriously or does it actually contact the real situation, Salgado photographs real humanitarian situations
  • He talks about Benjamin’s theories, push and pull between beauty and purpose, not mutually exclusive, they can do both

Photography and the other:

Tsinhnahjinnie HJ.

  • Talking about how photographs work with journalism, you need an explanation to work with the photograph just as you need images to accompany a description, they are interdependent
  • Edward Saiid, orientalism: we are on the outside looking at something that is not, making an exotic fiction of what the truth is
  • This book comes from someone who is part of the community that so much is written about and perceived falsely
  • Not talking about the quality of the images but the content and ideas addressed, because she is part of the culture she understands what the photographs portray
  • Really good theory with photographing something they don’t belong to, how do photograph/understand something I’m not part of? ARTEFACT IN 154?
  • Are you projected yours views and your understanding onto the subjects or the situation you are photographing


  • The invention of digital processes have separated photography from fact
  • References Ritchin, looses the integrity of photography
  • References Walter Benjamin, he was worried about reproduction before digital manipulation began
  • Martha Rosla, manipulation was happening before digital processes came in, the series with the fairies photo edited in using layering- was it ever about truth? Digital photography is liberating, because you can be creative in a way we couldn’t within analogue, used as a creative digital tool
  • Photography is a way of interpreting the world around us

Epiphany of the other- Levi Strauss


(Documentary photographer Sebastio Salgado, Brazilian photographer who works mostly on humanitarian projects with organisations such as UNICEF)


  • Images leave their mark when you look at them, not something you can pass over and forget easily
  • He captures points in time that are essential to portraying the lives of the subjects he photographs, ‘allows his subjects to be themselves and more than themselves at once’ – their daily life documented by Salgado could mean they represent or stand for millions in the same position
  • Comparison of photographers in the same field in Salgado’s favour (W.Eugene Smith vs Salgado) Where Smith pulls the subject out of the scene to try and make them a hero, Salgado photographs the subjects wrapped up in their context and in relation to what they stand for
  • Salgado works to preserve the image of working people (especially in the third world) and their lifestyles before they disappear, using photography to inform the whole world of other lives that are being lived
  • There is a market for poverty, companies, organisations and governments all like to seem like they are contributing to the end of poverty, however it is such a marketable thing because everyone pays attention
  • Salgado is set apart by his ‘relation to the other’, he is able to connect with his subjects with an understanding brought about by his exposure to different conditions in childhood
  • The care and devotion that Salgado puts into photographing these people makes them preserved in a ‘sacred’ way
  • Salgado becomes involved with the issues he addresses, personally, not only with his photographic work, he uses his initiative with his projects to make sure they are considered at the scale they need to be to have the full effect (changing a project in Brazil from a national to an international body of work)
  • Salgado’s images work on compassion, not pity. There is always a sense of righteousness in the images, defiance even as these people have survived conditions we could not begin to try and become accustomed to
  • Documentary photography is becoming more viral and people are exposed to the same sorts of images everyday, but Salgado’s stand apart

Fred Ritchin- The Pixellated Press

Written in 1999

  • Revolves around the idea of digital manipulation within photography (a subject he also relates to heavily in his other book After Photography)
  • Picks on pictorial examples to visual represent what is happening the publishing industry, changing the composition of photographs to fit from a portrait image to a landscape image or editing out something completely like a gun and holster, or even putting a cartoon in the image to replace a real person
  • Visits the debate that some of these changes are irrelative, as long as they don’t change the actual news story that is being told then it may be beneficial to improve the aesthetic of the image, however in some cases the images are manipulated to create a scene that wasn’t actually real (Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman)
  • Some of the changes are actually made by editors without the photographers permission, where they feel it would improve the image, however this in some cases has been problematic, for example an image of a red swimming pool was changed to blue as the editors believed there was an error in the image whereas the photographer had just been putting dye into the pool
  • All these ideas come down to the fact that as readers, how much do we know about the images that we see in publications? Two separate images that have been photo-shopped together to look like one portrait still get one image tag line, giving the idea that the two people were actually photographed together, do we as readers always know that what we are looking at is true? Is anything we look at in publications this age a real image taken straight from the camera with no manipulation?
  • Ritchen addresses the concept of ethics within digital manipulation done by editors these days. Is it against their ethics or the ethics of the readers to see the extent of which images are freely changed these days, perhaps even without the original photographers permission? Or is this just to be a factor of the digital age.
  • Henry Cartier Bresson, the decisive moment, is not when the image is being taken anymore but when it is modified

Final Summary of the readings

 Classic texts:

 Barthes– photography has two different purposes/effects stadium= looking at a photograph and appreciating what the photographer was trying to achieve, what the purpose was whereas punctum= an emotional response to a photograph that you can’t explain (the arrow/puncture effect)

 Sontag– photography as evidence, photography is supervision, all about photography within tourism and daily lives how it is now essential, photography can also be used as a weapon?

Walter Benjamin– photography and other modern digital processes take away the aura and uniqueness of image making, through the instant production and the ease of reproduction photography branches away from its cult value and finds a new purpose in the commercial/capitalist industry

Photography as evidence:

 Tagg– photography can be used as supervision for a whole population, the theory that if we are watched we behave ourselves, relates to the work of August Sander? Contradicts Barthes’ punctum effect, photography is to be used as evidence to support facts

Strauss– aesthetic vs anesthetic debate, can a photograph still look beautiful and portray or complete a purpose?



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This entry was posted on February 18, 2013 by in Creative Digital Practice.
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