Re-Reading Photographs

Michael Riley (mriley@ADMIN.AURORA.EDU)
Thu, 4 Jan 1996 09:20:22 -0600

Stacey Ayeh has posed an interesting question about reading photographs.
Unfortunately, she may be right in her assessment that the semiotics list
might provide better feedback. Appologies to Martin Cohen, but as
Raymond Hames suggests the reading of photographs is not an a priori
aspect of our "shared humanity" -- but is a socially learned and heavily
conditioned process. Sure, photographs are indexical signifiers, but
they are still signifiers -- not simply little fragmented bits of reality
for the world to share. Furthermore, there is a very complex
relationship between the data which can be retrieved from a photo,
and the meanings which are assigned to that information. I agree that it
would be best not to automatically recourse to unfortunate terms like "chiefs"
to frame the question, but I also think it would behoove us not to loose sight
of what is a good line of inquiry.