Indexicality in Photography


In the second lecture of the module we were introduced and encouraged to find the book by David Green entitled ‘Where is the Photograph?’ from just reading the Foreword to the book, it became very obvious that Photography is incredibly difficult when it comes to defining exactly what it is and it isn’t and where to place it. At the end of the first essay ‘fearful ghost of former blook: What is Photography?’ Batchenn mentions  Stuart Hall ‘s terminology of anything historical being a “continuous play of history, culture and power” this means to be that Photography is constantly developing and becoming more and more open ended, making it progressively more difficult for it to be ‘pinned down’.

The second essay I felt was relevant to context was the third in the book titled ‘From Presence to the Performative’ which speaks on indexicality. From this essay by David Green and Joanna Lowry they discuss C.S Pierce’s analysis of indexicality being ‘less to do with the causal origins and more to do with the way in which it pointed to the event of its own inscription.’ which led me to think more about how to represent my ideas.

Discussed further in the essay was the way that Photography became to be seen as ‘Art’, how Jeff Wall argues in his essay how including Photography as being seen as Conceptual Art shows artists wanting to uncover more ways of showing its uses through their own self and ideas, such as Ed Ruscha’s ‘Every Building On Sunset Strip.’ Jeff Wall argues that the reason Ruscha’s work was seen as Art as well as Photography was his ability to record through this medium.


Above: Robert Barry , inert gas series: Helium. On the morning of March 6 1969, somewhere in the Mojava Desert in California, 2 cubic feet of helium were returned to the atmosphere.

The artist above, Robert Barry’s work accompanies text, although the actions stated in the text are invisible to the audience which may come across as unimpressive, this highlights the border of what can be accepted as ‘indexical description’. I think Barry has done this to test the boundaries of what is accepted and to make us reconsider what Art is, in that way I think it’s interesting but without the text and knowing that the artist took the picture/proof that the text beside the image is genuine(we have to believe it), it would definitely not give the same effect. The work relies heavily on the text to give the impact of the meaning to the work, this has added something to and changed the art world. It is seen as ‘performative ‘.

Keith Arnatt – Trouser – Word Piece 1972.

Trouser - Word Piece 1972-89 by Keith Arnatt 1930-2008

Also by revisiting in to the work of John Berger – How To Understand A Photograph



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