Interpretation

When we take photos how do we interpret what we have taken?  Do photos mean what we want them to mean?  Do we take a leaf from Humpty-Dumpty in ‘Through the Looking-Glass”  and claim that “When I (take) a (photo) … it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”?  How do we interpret meaning in our photographs?

We can accept the conventional interpretation of a photograph – this is a mountain, this is a happy family, this is a beautiful flower.  This is the easy path, the simple and uncomplicated way of interpreting what we see.  But it is not necessarily the most useful method if we are to gain a greater understanding of our world or ourselves.

We need to ask what is left in the photo, what has been removed by judicious cropping and enhancements.  Questioning why this crop, that enhancement begins to clarify some of our views of this particular scene. Each time we move to find a better angles, change our pov or zoom the lens to change the focus of the shot, we are making decisions about what is important and interesting to us.  In our computer manipulations of the shot, cropping, enhancing, re-working the shot, we are eliminating the parts that do not say what we want the photograph to mean.  Our interpretation of that photograph becomes sharper and clearer each time we make a change.

We finally create a photograph that we believe means what we choose it to mean, no more, no less.    We have changed the original to meet our interpretation.

In this process we sometimes ask “Are we presenting a reality, are we recording a sliver of history, how accurate/reliable is it?”  In the end, we continue to manipulate and interpret the shot until it meets our version of reality, history and carries our internal construct of reliability and accuracy.

This process is incredibly freeing, for what we are doing is moving away from a conventional, classical categorisation of the world around us into a world where we can choose the way to view the world in a way that meets our changing interests.  We are not confined to an interpretation based on other conventions or beliefs, or religion or any other social construct.  This freedom also gives us the chance to accept and embrace changes within ourselves.  We know that change is possible, realignments of our interests or our beliefs allow us to see the world and ourselves in new and changing ways.

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