237130 | A2 | W7 | Visual Analysis Meaning Making and ‘Truth Value’

The myth of photographic truth refers to the established belief that photographs are inherently true, reliable representations of a moment in a particular time and place. The mechanical nature of photography, whether through film or digital is deceptive and alludes to the myth of photographic truth. From it’s creation in the mid 18th century, photography has been providing subjective, inaccurate, misrepresentative ‘truths’. As Mark Osterman says, photography is inherently untrue (The Myth of Photographic Truth). Digital technologies such as photoshop have only built on a preexisting practice of photographic manipulation. For this reason, an analysis of visual texts is not complete without examining the way the image was constructed and how this could influence it’s interpretations. When analysing a photograph we can look at it’s denotative and connotative qualities. A photograph can denote or describe a moment in time. However it can simultaneously evoke an emotional response (Sturken & Cartwright 20). This will differ for each individual viewer based on their worldview. When looking at the work of American artist Cindy Sherman, we can see that her photographs have both denotative and connotative qualities. In Untitled Film Still we can see a low angle photograph of a young woman wearing a hat against a city background. However, with a knowledge of American film history and gender studies we know that this photograph is more than just a photograph of a young woman. It is a commentary on the position of women in society and the way women are represented in the media (Mirzoeff 55).


Sherman, Cindy. Untitled Film Still. Photograph. The Museum of Modern Art. New York.


Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to See the World. London: Pelican, 2015. Print.

The Myth of Photographic Truth. Mark Osterman. International Museum of Photography and Film. 2012.

Sturken, Marita., & Cartwright, Lisa. Practices of Looking. New York: Oxford University Press. 2009.


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