Exercise · Bazin and Ontology and Sekula on meaning

Sekula draws out the well know discussion by Barthe’s topic of “Floating chains” of significance. This basic term seated within the conversation about the denotive and connotive value of the image for me immediately clears up doubts. In essence Barthes is talking about the way in which we ascribe meaning to any particular image. Sekula rejects the idea that there is a universal meaning already inherent with the image (Sekula, 1975) [1]. The backdrop to this discourse is in relation to other comentators that view photographic images as something substantial and independent, with inherent universal meaning.

When I read these discussion I find that it bring up a certain insecurity as to what I am trying to say with my own photographic practice. If I follow Sekula’s argument, then I will be saying one thing: giving the responsibility to the viewer to ascribe meaning as evidently every image I make comes from a culturally, socially, economically placed set of conditions on my part. On the other hand if I follow Bazin’s perspective I claim that every photo that I make is a direct communication as: ‘The photographic image is the object itself...’ (Bazin, 1945) [2].

My own view on the subject is this: The photo is an approximation in 2D form of something in the external tangible world but the meaning of the image is not inherent within the photo it is ascribed.


  1. Sekula, A. “On the invention of photographic meaning” (1975) [online] https://www.oca-student.com/resource-tags/documentary [accessed October 2019]
  2. Bazin, A. ‘The ontology of the photographic image’ in, what is cinema (1945) [online] https://www.oca-student.com/resource-type/course-resource/bazinontologyphoto [accessed October 2019]

Published by Truevisionphotography

I'm a student photographer studying through the OCA a UK based arts university. I'm in the foundation year of my studies and enjoying it immensely. I'm also a yoga teacher and co-founder of Bodhiyoga a buddhism based yoga teacher training program that runs in the UK and Spain each year. As a photographer I'm interested in all forms of fine art. I find the arts really important in my life. I love nature and aim to be in the outdoors as much as I can. Generally I think that all the different strands of my life are flowing to towards self development in the greatest sense of the term. The arts, buddhist practice yoga and meditation are all tools to that end. I feel committed to communication the these values in the world both through the visual arts as well as teaching.

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