Week 3. Theory & Photography

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21 January 2014

10-12am Portland 2.3

1:30-4pm Seminar room Portland 1.18

Seeing Signs: Reading Photographs

Are photographic images visual or textual? Are photographs meaningful? Can they communicate coherent information? Can they do so consistently? Should one think of photographic images as objective or subjective representations, as universal or cultural products? Are they symbolic, iconic or indexical? Such questions have informed the debates revolving around photography in the field of semiotics. Bearing in mind the questions listed above, this week's session will investigate the relationship between photography and systems of signs.


Further reading

Barthes, Roland, ‘The Photographic Message’ in Image-Music-Text, Fontana, 1977.

Williamson, Judith, Decoding Advertisements: ideology and meaning in advertising, Calder & Boyars, 1978.

Chandler, Daniel, Semiotics: the basics, Routledge, 2002.

Bal, Mieke., ‘Seeing Signs: The Use of Semiotics for the Understanding of Visual Art’ Cheetham, Holly and Moxey, eds., The Subjects of Art History, Cambridge.

Scott, Clive, ‘Title and Caption: projecting the photographic image’ in The Spoken Image: Photography and Language, Reaktion, 1999.

Eco, Umberto., ‘Critique of the Image’ in Burgin (ed) Thinking Photography, Macmillan, 1982.

Feedback ( )

The feedback is due by the Monday after the session is offered.

This material should be provided as a short response to the following three questions:

1. In one sentence for each, please note two or three main ideas from this session.

    A.Dyadic and Triadic signs in semiotics

2. What concept(s) need more reinforcement?


3. What two or three aspects of this session did the group like/dislike and why?

    A. Testing our reactions to colour/word sign test. Helped to understand types of signs

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