On the Invention of Photographic Meaning (1982) – Allan Sekula

© Lewis Hine (1909) 'Neil Gallagher, worked two years in a breaker, leg crushed between cars, Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, November, 1909'

Allan Sekula starts his essay On the Invention of Photographic Meaning (1982) by defining the term ‘photographic discourse'. I found this quite strange, in that for me discourse had always meant another word for argument and was fairly obvious. However, Sekula expands upon this notion.


The Relationship Between Photography and Reality

© Paul Strand (1916) - Shadows, Twin Lakes, Connecticut

Howells introduces the relationship between photography and reality. He does so in an easy to comprehend manner which I found conducive for understanding the essay. Firstly he describes the invention of photography and its formative years. This was information I’d largely heard about before but it does inform the rest of the essay going forwards. However, for me where the essay gets really interesting is Howells mentioning the arguments of Roger Scruton with his assertions that photography could not be considered an art form like painting could.

Rhetoric of the Image (1964) – Roland Barthes

Panzani Advertisement

The image is something of an enigma for me with regards to meaning and, according to Barthes (1964), this mystery can be seen from two fronts. Firstly, linguists say that compared to language, the image is fairly simplistic: ‘the image is an extremely rudimentary system in comparison with language’ - (Barthes, 1964). Secondly, ‘those who think that signification cannot exhaust the image’s ineffable richness.’ - (Barthes, 1964). I would put Vilém Flusser in this second category who talks of the ‘magic’ of images recurring infinitely: ‘the image is none other than the world of magic, a world in which everything is repeated and in which everything participates in a significant context.’ - (Flusser, 1983).