Exercise 5.6: Context and meaning

In one part of this project we have to read John A Walker’s essay ‘Context as a Determinant of Photographic Meaning’, summarize the key points and note down our personal reflections (as before in italics).

  • The context and the meaning of a photograph changes depending on where it is presented or “located”. Different parts or characteristics of an image appear important in different display contexts.
  • The meaning on the image also changes when some text or caption is added, or becomes a part of a series of photos or it is juxtaposed with other image or images. I mentioned many times in my blogs for the OCA courses, how an image appears “stronger” when it becomes part of a series of images. I also mentioned in the past, how the interpretation of an image change when more information is provided in the caption. However, especially in the fine art images, maybe it is better not to have captions in order to allows us freely to reflect on the subject of the image. In the photojournalism photos however, it is better to have more details about what we are seeing.
  • In the past, paintings and sculptures were produced for specific locations and the original was only one. In photography, the same image can be produced in thousand copies and placed in different locations and contexts. An example of this is the photos I have seen of refugees in the recent exhibition in Thessaloniki Photography Museum, where the images originally appeared in newspapers and magazines and in the museum there was a collective exhibition related to this issue. In this case most of the photographers were photojournalist (even amateurs) and not artists which are more frequently represented in galleries and museums.
  • During the “life” of an image its meaning can change from the initial (the moment was taken) to the meaning it has when it is used in different contexts. An example of this can be the use of an image in a cover of a book. The photographer could have taken it as a personal project and then the author/ publisher liked it and decided to use it in the book, because they though that it matched the story of the book, of which the photographer was not aware the moment he captured the image.
  • The context/meaning of the image also depends on the person who looks at the images. The same image can have different meaning for different people depending on their character/ age/ experience/ political views etc.

In the other part of the exercise we have to write down some thoughts about possibilities of any kind of installation or exhibitions for our work for assignment 5. I have two thoughts.

  • The first one is large (1-2 meters in the longest side) poster size prints of the photos in waterproof material and possibly resistant to long exposure on sun at least for few day and installed in metallic frames in the locations close to where the images have been taken. In addition, some lighting for the night (in the top of bottom). However, I do not know if that is possible due to limitation of the local archaeological authorities.
  • The second idea is A3 prints in simple frames in an exhibition in a building which is used as a gallery but it used to have a different usage in the past.

Whereas in the first thought, it might be obvious the reasons, the second is mainly because I like more the idea of these spaces than the traditional “white cube” as a gallery space.


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