• Charlotte Chapple

The Identity of Photography

Stephan Bull Photography

Chapter 2 The Identity of Photography


The opening segment entitled ‘Fixing the Image: The Conception of Photography’ explores the history of the still image and how different approaches, genres and styles have developed and evolved over time. I found this section very engaging and interesting; it provided just the right amount of information without being to overbearing and essay like.


Bull talks about how digital images are dematerialised – can’t be seen or even exists without appropriate technology. He mentions how ‘Digital files are virtual, rather than physical objects’, how they can been seen everywhere and anywhere in modern day society and dominate our modern world. The progress from spending time setting up a camera to simply being able to pull out your phone and take an image in a few brief seconds has clearly made photography much more accessible to the general public but I have the view that you do still require certain technology to both take and view the images, such as mobile phones and laptops but granted the technology needed is less specific nowadays and comes in a much more accessible forms for the general public. I found this section particularly appealing.


Other key aspects of this chapter include:

  • John Szarkowski’s  five characteristics that form the essence of a photograph: thing; detail; frame; time and vantage point (p11)

  • Postmodernism – context over content. I found this helpful as I am still trying to find my way with the characteristics of postmodern work.

  • Indexicality – the idea of a photograph as showing reality.

  • Categories of signs; Indexical (eg weathercock showing wind direction); Iconic (looks like but not caused by) and Symbolic (does not look like and is not caused by).


I highly recommend this book to any media, photography and visual culture students!

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