There is a subject area I have been talking about, well moaning about for a number of years. It has mostly become an itch to me since the digital revolution and the omnipresence of photography and images in general. My concerns lie in the area that we are all constantly being asked to understand a situation or event through images.
This is a picture I took in Damascus in 2009 just before the wars started. Is it a political rally, some sort of militia? Go to the end of this article to find out
How often do we see at the end of an article on a news site “Are you There? send us your pictures” I see two problems with this, the first that most people have never been schooled in understanding images, how to read them and, secondly, more importantly how they may be presented to us from a biased point of view. When we read an article in a newspaper we understand that the newspaper has it’s own bias, political, social or environmental, we understand through the language used that we are being led in a certain direction. Read the same story in The Guardian and The Mail and you instantly recognise what I am saying. See this advert from The Guardian from 2007 and understand what I mean. But with images it is a different matter. Most people do not have the skills to dissect the image and so take what is shown at face value, but that is not always the correct interpretation. I think we should be taught how to read images as much as we are taught how to read words if we are going to be expected to navigate our worlds only by images.
This article by Federico Alegria is very interesting and covers this and much more, it looks at this understanding of images from the perspective of a photographer who wants to do more than merely record. It is, of course, the basis of my Composition In Photography Course and the more advanced Intermediate Photography Course
Federico Alegria writes: Jim Casper said, “The language of photography continues to get more interesting and more complex as it becomes the most universal medium of communication worldwide.” This may be the most compelling statement about photography I’ve read this year.
Etymologically, photography means not so much “drawing with light”, but “writing with light”. Casper’s insight then shouldn’t surprise you. We are constantly writing, every day, from emails, SMS and messages through social media, to papers and other documents that might be more complex in terms of their language, style, and audience.
So ask yourself, when you are presented with an image and expected to understand what it is trying to say are you sufficiently skilled to do so, and if not are you being led by a biased presenter?
The parade was an Easter parade in Damascus, in a city where different religions co-existed before 2010. Here are some more images from the same joyful event
Easter Parade, Damascus 2009
Damascus Easter Parade 2009