Photographic Nature

The lecture “Photography, Photographies” (week 1), and the various readings undertaken so far this week, have given me a lot to think about, of which I am only beginning to get an analytical handle on.

Using this image “Millennium Bridge pad-locks at 5 am” I will attempt a brief examination of the Photographic Nature of this photograph within the parameters of Szarkowski and Shore.

Szarkowski proposition begins with The Thing Itself (specific objects in the foreground); The Detail (foreground and background suggest a location: cables that suggest a construction of sorts, with a background out of focus, but maybe an identifiable building); The Frame (choice of lines, placement and focus of main objects and background, and the framing); The Time (does the moment of time help or detract from the object. Is time identifiable within the photograph); and The Vantage Point (low down, looking across, and into the distance) (Szarkowski 1966).

Shore’s analysis of a photograph encapsulates the idea that “All photographic prints have qualities in common”, and his proposition seems a more spiritual analysis than Szarkowski’s. He divides the categories of a photograph into “levels”:

Physical: I understood this to be along the lines of does the physical nature of the photograph add or contribute to the photograph in any way and has there been any enhancement or detraction in the qualities of the photograph towards its reception and analysis.

Depictive: Flatness; Frame; Time and Focus. FLATNESS and FRAME: the choice of final material and presentation for the viewer; the direction of the cables; the lines going left to right but also in a direction from bottom to top, with the horizon at an angle; TIME seems captured or still and with the FOCUS being on the main padlock at the front, with the other parts of the photograph being in various states of being blurred.

Mental: My interpretation of this level is about how we approach a photograph as a viewer, and would also include the environment and location of the image (where is seen and experienced (from gallery to book to online). It also suggestions an inner conversation that may occur between the viewer and the photograph. How do the levels of Physical and Depictive help in the analysis and narrative contained within the image? Is there a story, or as Alec Soth suggests, a “curiosity” that sparks within the viewer to investigate the photograph and make a commitment to understand more about what they are looking at?


SZARKOWSKI, John. 1966. The Photographer’s Eye. Museum of Modern Art.

SHORE, Stephen. 1998. The Nature of Photographs. 2nd edn. 2007. Phaidon.