Understanding Photography

(For uni) Photography is a series of objects that form a picture which form a code for us to individually decipher. There is a fundamental difference between the way that photographs and paintings visually work. Through a camera we only see through one dimension, but we understand photography  because of our previous knowledge of what a photograph is: a subjective representation of reality. A photograph essentially lies, at it is only one dimensional, but we use our own knowledge of space and real life to appreciate the image in our own individual ways. The best photos you look at will be due to your understand of the topic. There are so many elements to a photograph and the more you understand and convey modern culture that others are going to recognise, the better your photography will be received.

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When creating a visual project, you need an understanding of how the photograph operates,
so that you can communicates with your audience and lead them through the story of the pictures. This is known as pictoral devices – for example, the diagonal lines used in classical photography and landscape paintings e.g Nicolas Poussin (right).

Poussin leads us right around the activity in the pictures whilst placing it in context with the landscapae. The strong verticals of the trees on the side make the picture appear well constructed and ‘complete’. The artist here has full control over this picture, and you see exactly what he wants you to. He also uses atmospheric space in this picture, fading the colours at the top to insinuate depth and making it appear further away.

There are other subliminal devices used in this picture, such as colour. The colour red is a traditional representation of a man (originally used to symbolise male religious elders) and blue was the colour of the woman (e.g virgin Mary). Another reason he may have used red is because it is the complementary colour of green, so he may have been cleverly working the colour spectrum.

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Monet “loaded a shotgun and fired it at a canvas.” He had very bad reviews of his earlier work, as people in Paris at the time could not understand the context of his impressionist paintings. They could not see the cultural references in his paintings of London, or the fact that he used abstract objects like reflections instead of real objects. The audience couldnt understand it visually, which goes back to my original point, that photos work symbolically through cultural coding.

Alexander Rodchenko explored socialism and grandness of society in Russia. Rodchenko was the pioneer of Constructivism and ‘Russian diagonals’, that give the audience a sense of unease and dissonance due to the invasive diagonals he used in all of his photography. Surreal, dreamlike unreality through distortions.

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