Project: What makes a document? – Discontinuities


Thanks to everyone who has helped me with this exercise. I hope this summary and explanation are useful.

The brief for the exercise was to post five photographs which have personal significance onto the forum and invite fellow students to provide captions or explanations. The idea of the exercise is to illustrate ‘Discontinuities’. I quote from the course notes;

All photographs are ambiguous. All photographs have been taken out of a continuity. If the event is a public event, this continuity is history, if it is personal; the continuity which has been broken is a life story. Even a pure landscape breaks continuity: that of the light and the weather. Discontinuity always produces ambiguity.” Berger and Mohr, 1995. P91.

My images are here on Flickr

I have posted my detailed explanation of each photograph in the album as the final comment and this will add some context. I hope my narrative will go some way to explain how, once outside the family album, most of the images (in my eyes anyway) become a document or a least one moment in my life story. To quote Berger and Mohr again, once words are used with photographs “they produce together an effect of certainty, even dogmatic assertion.”

Having read all of the comments, it is clear that I should have challenged my fellow students with some less obvious examples. Those that depicted me were easy to understand by those who know me and what I tend to do in my life. Although there was no deliberate selection from my family album, Eileen made a connection between travel and working abroad. The “race for life” picture also prompted some interesting comments, most of which reflected the actual personal circumstances of the event.


It is clear from this exercise how important context is when we read an image. How much information we are provided with, either from the photographer, or knowledge from our own experiences can reduce and in some cases, increase the ambiguity. How we define a document, either as a personal record (as in these examples) or as a public record, it still depends on the context in which it is presented, the context in which it is viewed and the knowledge and experience that the viewer has (if any) of the subject and/or the photographer.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s