Photography, perception and language: towards a theoretical groundwork for image education

McTaggart, Andrew Brown (1982) Photography, perception and language: towards a theoretical groundwork for image education. Masters thesis, Middlesex Polytechnic. [Thesis]

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The aim of this thesis is to examine the status and nature of photography in relation to two basic approaches: one derived from theories of perception and the other from analogies with verbal language. The implications and conclusions drawn from this critical survey are assessed in terms of their relevance and value for education in photography and as the basis for a possible curriculum in image education.
The fact that the position of photography is not firmly established in school highlights the need for a fundamental re-appraisal of the medium and the part that it can play in education. Section One deals with the two main justifications for photography in education, following categories derived from Eisner: the contextualist and the essentialist. While the former provides a very strong case, the latter is also regarded as critical and concerns the value of photography as a medium in its own right. Issues regarding the criteria for photography, particularly as an art form, are then raised, and lead to basic questions about the nature of the medium itself.
In Section Two, perceptual theory is examined by comparing
two positions: Gibson's "registration" theory and the "constructive" tradition, with some consideration of the Gestalt view. The photograph's link with the real world is maintained in the comprehensive psychological theory of Neisser and the passage from nature to convention is accounted for here, as well as in Peirce's theory of signs. In photographic theory proper, the "trace of the real" is regarded as of seminal importance.
"Language analogies are then considered in Section Three.
Basic differences between word and image are clarified, and it is contended that while "language" metaphors can be used with some profit, too close a model borrowing from structural
linguistics is fraught with difficulties. Sebeok's semiotic
framework of communication and signification is introduced and regarded as useful in uniting natural and nonverbal phenomena to photographic concerns.. However, the project of "translinguistics", initiated by Barthes, but not ultimately pursued by him, is shown to have dangerous formalist and determinist leanings especially in conjunction with Marxist-Läcanian concepts. Partisan political concerns in "ideological" image analysis have become over-dominant in some instances for a wide understanding of issues.
Finally, in Section Four, suggestions for new priorities in image education through photography are advanced and compared to present practice. Examples of work are given in the Appendices.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Additional Information: Thesis presented for the degree of Master of Philosophy of the
Council for National Academic Awards.
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts
B. > Theses
Item ID: 10879
Depositing User: Adam Miller
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2013 11:44
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2022 03:42

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