“The very clear difference between photographers that I know/ work with and undergrads is in approach, the way they think about their and others work.” Dean Chalkley, Rick Pink

Visual culture doesn’t exist on its own, it is integrated into society as a whole. You cant separate them out into separate sections, there is a constant flow between art and society.

“Empire of signs”

True leaders of visual culture consider, reflect and think about their practice. How do they go about this method and linking it to their practice? Using the inescapable methodology of thinking and doing in the creation of their images, using the universal language of semiotics to communicate and decode their ideas. This understanding of semiotics allows them to come to well informed understandings of theirs and others work.

“Unpicking the seams of culture and its images” – Semiotics allows us a close reading of images and texts, and a method for the systematic approach to analysis of visual culture. “Photographs never lie, but photographers always do” Semiotics allows us to uncover these reflections and creations of the truth and build an understanding of the contexts within the image. All these meanings and contexts are dependent on there relation to interdependent systems.

An understanding of semiotics allows us to “Situate the visual in photography in a social and cultural context” Gillian Rose – Visual Mythologies

As creatives semiotics is a way of understanding the how and why of visual culture. It gives us the language to articulate ideas about our own and other peoples work. Greater frames of reference allows us to be more concise and articulate in the understanding of visual culture. In turn semiotics primes creativity and broadens visual perimeters.

“Semiotics offers a full box of analytical tools for understanding images and tracing how it works. Could you be a mechanic without an understanding of car engines. How can you be a creative in the artistic field without understanding how it works?”

Think about the gap between the signifier and the signified and the opportunities this gap affords to creative, allowing for nuance, for shades and traces within our images and for varied and informed reference points for our work.

Analytical skills

– Decide what the signs are within the images.
– Decide what the signs signify in themselves.
– How do they relate to other signs within the context of the image.
– Explore these connections to wider systems of meaning.

Photographic images have a special organisation , in that they offer a particular position to viewers. Interesting images create allusion, trace, implication and nuance to create metaphors within the work, although absence and use of space within the image can also be equally effective. By leaving space and creating nuance within the image the viewer is drawn into the work and forced to fill in the gaps for themselves. This invites the viewer to participate with the image and creates a much more engaging piece of work.

Semiotics can also be critically applied to film. Films are a key resource for photographers and are useful for picking up certain techniques, crucially mise en scene and framing.
Visual imagery is never innocent, it is always constructed through various practices, technologies and knowledge’s. Semiotic meanings are constructed at three sites, production, the image itself and the site of consumption. The main stage on how an image works upon the viewer is the actual content of the image, the content carries informative values dependant on the contexts of the work. The placement of elements within the frame and their relationship to each other within the frame is also a factor, with different elements made to attract the viewers attention to different degrees. The size, contrasts, tones and sharpness of the elements also add to this effect. Lines and shapes within the image can frame key elements, or add dividing or trauma lines to separate certain elements. The way western culture reads left to right also plays a key part in the way a viewer reads an image. The right side of the image often holds the key information within the image, while the left side acts as an informer to the information on the right.

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