The Index and the Icon

As I am reading through publications of Barthes, Susan Sontag and again exploring the article by Snyder and Allen about photography, vision and representation, I am starting to think in more detail than before what my work presents. Yes, photography is about capturing a sense of reality. But how authentic it really is and what aspect of my work is unique and different from other photographers’ work. These thoughts begin to linger in my mind especially when I look at digital equipment we have to our disposal and the ability to distort the reality of the photograph we can make. How realistic is our vision of the world?

Photographs are not really representations at all. They are the practical realization of the general artistic ideas of objectivity and detachment – this fragment from Snyder and Allen’s paper has challenged my thinking during this week. As I think back and forth, how to read that statement, the analytical side of me kicks in and here I am looking through my most recent work, trying to see how and if I apply artistic vision to my representation of the subject I capture. And if I do apply artistic vision, how well will my work represent the reality of the moment I am attempting to photograph. I could argue that in photographs, unlike other art media, there is very little room for artistic ideas as they would greatly distort the reality in the photograph.

Few months ago on my way to work, I saw a farmer with the horse moving along the fence of the field, as the sun began to come up. I didn’t have my camera on me that day, but afterwards I couldn’t stop thinking about the scene I witnessed. It touched me on so many levels. It reminded me of my grandfather and his farm. It made me think about new beginnings. It also reminded me of the movie “Gone with the Wind”. It was the composition, the colour of the sky, the movement of the farmer and the horse and the overall tranquility of the scene. The reality, the accuracy, the moment in time and the artistic touch all in one. It took me over 6 months to see him again and this time I was ready. I pulled on the side of the road and for few minutes I was transformed into this scene, completely oblivious to the world around me.

This was my vision of that photograph. I would be curious to see what others see in it. Perhaps for people, this photograph represents an entirely different range of visual and emotional concepts.


BARTHES, Roland. 1980. Camera Lucida. New York: Hill and Wang.

SONTAG, Susan. 1977. On Photography. New York: Picador.

Issue 138, pages 38-46, April 2020, For Collectors of Fine Photography Black & White