INTERPRETING A DIGITAL-ALTERED PHOTOGRAPH ON THE INTERNET: A POSTMODERNIST APPROACH
East Stroudsburg University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:According to postmodernist thinking, a photograph can have multiple meanings, depending upon different viewers with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. This article tries to illustrate, by citing a digitally altered photograph circulated on the internet as an example, that the same image can cause different interpretations by various people who have different historical and social knowledge, and who come from diverse ethnics and cultures. In addition, this article discusses how photography manipulation can affect viewers’ interpretation of images.
By quoting different cultural theories to elucidate the postmodernist approach of interpretation, this article starts from questioning the old assertion that each photograph has one single meaning, usually ordained by the artist. According to Jean Baudrillard’s theory of simulacrum and Roland Barthes’s theories of denoted and connoted meanings of an image, it is viewers who individually ordain the meaning of photographs, not the artist.
This article continues to discuss the impact of photography manipulation on the credibility of photographs. In some viewers’ view, manipulated photographs totally lose their credibility. However, according to cultural theorist Philippe Dubois, manipulated photographs can be considered as a provider of an “X-ray” realism, which presents a distilled reality that is more real than what we can see with naked eyes.
In conclusion, the postmodernist approach that renders multiple meanings by viewers suggests “the death of the author” and “the birth of the reader.” There are many factors affecting one’s understanding of a digital-altered photo, including historical, technical background, and social diversities. Viewers’ active selection and choice is the ultimate hinge to determine one’s interpretation of it.
Keywords: Digital Photography, Interpretation.