Informing contexts, Week 4 – into the image world

The presentations, mostly concerning images found in advertisements, were fascinating although I have struggled to situate my photographic practice in the context of the themes discussed. As for intent, I see my work as a landscape photographer largely in documentary terms although, by the use of abstraction, I do aim to “tease” the viewer into questioning what an image in reality represents – as perhaps in the image below of reflections in a mill pond of the chapel at Little Gidding in Cambridgeshire (the title of, and inspiration for, the last of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets):

Little Gidding

or with the somewhat surreal. This image was captured at Djupavik bay, a remote part of northwest Iceland:


The selective nature of the photographic image makes the creation of ambiguity (or deception) all too easy. The first image from Easter Island below seems to show a contented Polynesian couple. It is only the second image which contextualises the situation. However, are we looking at exploitation by Western media, forcing islanders to dress-up in caricatured native garb or are the couple professional – and presumably properly paid – screen actors?

Easter Island.jpg

Easter Island (1).jpg

Of course, the intent of some images can only acquire resonance if the viewer is given some clue as to their context. The two images below were captured in the course of my ongoing major project on Irish poets, in this case the childhood landscape of Seamus Heaney. In the first image, the studium is obvious – a bridge with barbed wire. It perhaps only acquires its punctum if the viewer is made aware (a) that the bridge is in  Northern Ireland with its troubled past, and (b) that the bridge carries the (now abandoned) railway line referenced in Heaney’s poetry:

Moyola 1

This second more abstract image is again largely meaningless unless an accompanying text informs the viewer that the river in question is the Moyola; this river, which flows from the Sperrin mountains into Lough Neagh, formed one element of the landscape of water and light which suffused Heaney’s childhood and imbues much of his verse. However, any significance would be lost on a person unfamiliar with Heaney’s life and work. Rather than the eclipsing of the author by the reader as postulated by Barthes, this approach involves collusion – in terms of mutual awareness of the author’s intent –  between the two protagonists.

Moyola 2 1

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