Arsifa Deliyana

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Week 11 Visual Semiotics & Photography

Objectivity and Subjectivity of Photography

Photography has been debated either as works of art or scientific theories. The notion of photography is questioned whether it is objective or subjective, fact or opinion. Essentially, photography is an objective medium in the hands of wholly subjective beings, hence it is symbolic nature. The photograph presents various forms, perspectives, and relationships in space. Several photographic luminaries have stood up photography’s objectivity in opposing the idea of photography is subjective.

As the construction of reality, photography defined as truthful evidence. Objective photography not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations or prejudice. It based on facts and unbiased from objective opinion. The objective itself must based on the senses – can be heard, smelled, tasted, touched or seen. As the avant-garde artist, photographer, and Bauhaus innovator, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy said, the photographic camera has the most reliable aid to a beginning of objective vision. Everyone will be compelled to see that which is optically true, is explicable in its own terms, is objective, before viewer can arrive at any possible subjective position. In short, the aggregate objectivity is furnished by camera.

In contrary, the other school of thought persists photography as subjective work. According to Brassai, the personality of photographer affects the perspective of photograph. “What is extraordinary is that, despite this submission and abnegation, the personality of the photographer shines through all the obstacles. In the end, images convey personality just as strongly as in a drawing.” (Brassai, quoted in Paul Hill and Thomas Cooper, Dialogue with Photography, New York: Aperture, 1982, pp. 40-41.)

A photograph recording reality will not produce the original reality, even as most similar reflection. Therefore, the concept of ‘reality’ must be categorized as part of separate reality to get better understanding of the photo itself. Based on photographic process, photo shoot always passes through three realities: 1. the object being photographed; 2. the object image results; and 3. the object image results being edited by software, e.g Photoshop. This process involves the subjectivity from the first process. Thus, photography cannot be said as objective or subjective works, barring to the particular context.


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