Landscape- Exercise 5:6- Context and Meaning

This exercise was split into two parts.

The first asked us to think about how we would like to present our 5th assignment in an installation or exhibition. Although we are not expected to do this at level 2, it allows us to think about how our work can be “strengthened or expanded by their physical location”. In order to do this, we were asked to create a rough sketch to show scale, position and anything else we think could be incorporated.

Part 1

Gallery image and notes

As this is only an exercise, I thought about the more extreme ways I would imagine my work to be displayed. In the above image, you can see that the images have been displayed quite large and I have even put an image on the floor. The reasoning for this is because my self-directed project is about drawing attention to the edgelands and making people more aware of them. In a small space with large images, the viewer is “forced” to take notice of the images and feel emerged in the edgelands. I would have lighting above each image or order to give them each their own individual light, attention and focus.

Part 2

In the second part, we had to read John Walker’s essay “Context as a Determinant of Photographic Meaning” and note the key points.

Key points and notes

  • Although the essay was written over 30 years ago, a lot of what is being said is still relevant today. The essay gives a lot of food for thought and I have found it quite difficult to narrow down the key points without going off onto too much of a tangent
  • The context of an image can make a huge difference to how an image is viewed. The context can be architectural, within media, mental or social-historical.
  • By changing an images location, you can alter an image’s context and meaning, however this is not a dramatic transformation. It is usually the case that a different part or characteristic becomes more prominent. There is a further shift in context and meaning when text, other images or a display is added to an image as well.
  • originally images were created for specific areas (ceilings for example) but over time this has been lost and nowadays images can be seen simultaneously throughout the world and through different media outlets. This creates a media context which is far more ambiguous and leads onto the cultural context.
  • Walker then explores an images circulation and currency. He makes an interesting point about an image’s meaning being determined or influenced by its point of origin and how a photo’s meaning can change as it moves through its life time i.e. it could first appear in a gallery, then 10 years later appear in a textbook as an example of something etc.
  • The key point I noted within the “Jo Spence” was how a space can alter an image and an image can alter a space.
  • Walker then moved onto mental context and the “beholders share”. This was a section that really interested me as it just scratches the surface of the idea of individualism and how individual we actually are.
    • when we go to view an image, we cannot help but be influenced by the little voices in our head. These voices consist of memories, knowledge, prejudices, opinions, experiences etc
    • other things that can affect the way we see and interpret images are our social class, gender, age, education, nationality, political views, parentage, race, religious views (the list goes on)
    • we cannot say for sure, without much discussion, exactly what goes through a person’s mind when they view an image, however we can make assumptions based of things we have in common such as languages and social groups.
    • With the barrage of images we see on a daily basis (more so now then when this was originally written) there is no way to judge the impact of a single image on society unless it is so radical and shocking or in times of revolution when the social context can change dramatically
    • An artist can try to create “favourable and appropriate conditions” (deciding how work is to be displayed/presented, sizes, limiting access etc) for their work but more often than not, context and meaning is out of their control.
  • The ambiguity and complexity of an image also gives rise to variations in interpretations.

About kunsworthphotography

I am currently studying towards a BA (Hons) in Photography with OCA and I have 2 children, Evie(4 years old) and Connor(3 years old)
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