Arsifa Deliyana

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Week 1 Visual Semiotic & Photography

Allegory of the Cave & Photography

Allegory of the Cave  is a famous analogy about reality and transcendence created by great Greek philosopher, Plato. The ideas were illustrated and delivered as a conversation between Socrates and Glaucon. It was started with an illustration of prisoners living in an underground since childhood. Their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see the wall in front of them. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance and if there is other people or animal passing by, the shadow will be reflected into the wall in front of them. Whenever people or animals speak, the voice will be echoed to the ears of prisoners.

Seeing only the reflections in the wall for the whole life made the prisoners perceive shadow and echo as the reality and they live in two-dimension world. They did not realize that it was all just reflection of objects behind them. Thus, the beginning of this illustration tells Plato’s idea that human thought reality based on what they perceived. Sometimes, people trapped embracing what the perceive as the nature of reality, while the fact is what they have seen was basically just a small part. It happens because human perception is limited by the knowledge they have.

Apart from Plato’s cave – perception of reality based on the images of the truth, photographs teach a new visual code. Photographs alter and enlarge the notions of what is worth looking at and what people have a right to observe. Unlike the prisoners in the cave who only can see 2D reflection in the wall and perceive the shadow of human as human, people see the world through photographs. These photographs may present different meaning of the same objects with different perspective. Finally, capturing an object from camera lens gives different way of seeing things. It gives the sense of being able to hold the whole world in the heads – as an anthology of images.



The Myth of the Cave. From the Republic by Plato. Book VII. Retrieved at 9th April 2016 from

Susan Sontag. In Plato’s Cave. Retrieved at 9th April 2016 from


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