In their chapter on photography, Howells and Negreiros survey some of the historical developments in responses to photography as an art and the relationship of the medium to reality. The paper contains much useful information and debate, however I found myself strangely disengaged from it. I previously read this when I studied both UVC and documentary and found it useful then, so I am struggling to understand what has changed. Perhaps it is me and my thinking – having extensively considered whether photography is an art (answer = it depends) or the relationship between photography and reality (answer = it is a mixture of truth and fiction) I have explored these topics as much as I want to. That is not to try and suggest that I am an authority on this, far from it, simply that these debates  are not the ones that I find most engaging or relevant to my current practice. I also find myself increasingly engaged with texts that have a strong point of view or argument to make and considering if I am convinced or share the arguments being presented. Despite all of these rambling thoughts, there is much to engage with in the paper, here are some of the quotes that resonated with me:

  • Quote from Bazin’s Ontology of the Photographic Image:
    • “the photograph is like a ‘fingerprint’. It is not the finger itself, but a record of the thing itself made by the thing itself.” (p. 199)
      • A succinct yet deceptively simple metaphor. Anyone can recognise a finger but to truly be able to read the information contained in a fingerprint in a useful way requires specialist knowledge.
  • Mike Weaver – the photograph is like a novel based on a true story. 
    • This quote enigmatically encapsulates the push/pull relationship between photography, reality and truth. It particularly chimes with my thinking as I become more comfortable with being unconcerned about notions of impartiality in my personal work and embrace ideas of authorship and presenting a personal view point. I should research the text quoted further.
      • Photography is “a meeting of the actual and the imaginary, where each adds to, rather  than detracts from, the power of the other. When we view a photograph, we are stimulated by the hallucination and the fact at the same time – and receive the compounded stimulation of both. The effect is doubled, not halved. The relationship between photography and reality is, therefore, a complex one, but it is a complexity that explains the deep and articulate richness of the photographic image.” (p. 200)


Howells, R. and Negreiros, J. (2012) ‘Photography’ In: Visual Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press. pp. 183-206