2 thoughts on “And now a few words about context”

  1. Puts a whole new light on my passion for identifying family photographs. Yes, context is all. The photograph itself is like poetry – if it moves you to feel SOMETHING, it is successful. But the context gives you the narrative in which the photograph is embedded. I took a new look at a family picture currently being reproduced for a relative. (The one from Costa Rica.) And I understood after reading the blog and the comments that it was incumbent on me to tell the whole story. WHY is my father sitting down in the picture when in all other pictures either he’s not there (because he took the picture) or he’s standing up. Why, why and a few other whys which make up the context and spin the narrative. Thank you!! I thank you, and my posterity thanks you.

  2. Yes, the blog posts are interesting. One person suggests the picture is false because the ship is moving forward, but the smoke is blowing backward. He obviously missed the post (far) before his which stated that the ship is anchored because the smoke is going backward.
    The comment I find poignant is
    “The meaning of anything we experience in life is invented by our own thinking mind. By considering one’s experience with photographs, a person may gain insight.” Roland Barthes Camera Lucinda is mentioned a couple of times, but we have a much less esoteric example. In I think it was 1918, Eisenstein produced a famous piece of film footage with an actor who was popular in the day (his name escapes me). He showed the actor and then a shot of bread. He showed the actor, and then a young girl. He showed the actor, and then running water…and so on. People insisted that the actor showed amazing range in his emotions, from hunger, to sadness, to thirst. It was revealed, however, that the actor’s face was the same film clip over and over again. Viewers had imagined changing emotions on the actors face because of its juxtaposition with other items which elicited a response in the viewer. Eisenstein was demonstrating the impact of the viewers mind on what was a very neutral head shot.
    The question of a photo being true or false seems to me to be misplaced. One commentator states that all that can be said is whether or not the picture is of a ship, etc. The rest, the context, can be manipulated by whoever is captioning. The question is more whether the caption is true or false.
    Shortly after I purchased RDL&C, my ‘partner’ purchased a 10 ft analog dish, so we got all kinds of feeds from prize fight to news backhauls. It was stunning to see the uploads from war zones to the parent broadcast company, unedited, and then later see the prepared piece on the evening news. Rarely did the commentary have anything to do with the footage I saw originally. Sanitized and manipulated, it was fed to a public eager to believe the talking heads. Indeed, many individuals could not understand the news, or would deny what they were seeing, without the guidance of a trusted news anchor.

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