Visual Narrative & Context: Symbolism and Metaphor.

Symbolism and Metaphor are used to show meaning and a deeper message, the most effective way of using these are creatively without being literal. These are used to catch engagement, to evoke emotion and to encourage the audience to work and provoke thought.

Symbolic Photography differs to Straight and Documentary Photography as it presents the point of view of the Photographer, is very personal and asks the audience to understand it whereas straight photography shows a certain context and Documentary tells someone else’s story.

Jerry Uelsmann creates surreal symbolic photography by combining negatives in his darkroom. His work mostly focuses on dreamscapes that consist of elemental natural forms, dreams, consciousness and human memory. Uelsmann’s work is seamless and provokes great thought from the audience as it is very interesting. I am especially drawn to the first image as it gives a clear sense to me that our nature is in our own hands, as the water is rippled it could symbolise that there is a ‘storm ahead’ within nature which has become apparent in recent years through global warming and the ozone layer .

Laura Mukabaa created a single image called ‘Mothers and Daughters’ which overlay three generations to signify the connection and relationship between the different generations of Mother and Daughter. This work stands out to me as it is aesthetically pleasing and creates a clear message of what the Photographers intent is.

Susan Derges – Full Circle
Susan Derges has created photograms of frogspawn hatching into tadpoles. Derges here is documenting metamorphosis which focuses of natural life cycles. Her work is visually consistent aesthetically due to the format of the images, the presentation and the similar colours in each of the shots which all work really well together and make a strong piece of work.

Other styles include documentary photographers using symbolism to show the reality of a situation or through contradiction of two subjects. Straight photography can also become symbolic to show the passing of time. It is completely within the eye of the artist as ‘Perspective makes the eye the centre of the visible world’ Berger, John, Ways Of Seeing, Episode One, 1975.
Below is a reference to an online essay written by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The essay discusses the structure of symbolism in Photography.
Lisa Hostetler
Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
October 2004


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