Reading Images

“A single image can serve as a multitude of purpose, appear in a range of settings, and mean different things to different people” – Sturken and Cartwright.

In this lecture we looked at the act of reading an image, at how image analysis allows us to understand how we perceive the world around us and some examples of photographers.

We first looked at examples of images that can be precieved differently by each individual person, a famous example of this is the drawing that can be seen either and rabbit or a duck. We came to the conclusion most of us could see both the rabbit and the duck after looking at the image for sometime. This shows that the longer you look at an image the more you will get from it, and that applies for all images.

We then discussed what we would consider a portrait, and came to the conclusion that a portrait doesn’t have to be a head shot of a person but a image that tells you something about a person. An example of this is an image that we looked at by Annie Leibovitz.


Annie Leibovitz -Pete Seeger, Clearwater Revival, Croton-on-Hudson, NY, 2001

We were then shown examples of photographers to look at which would link to our current theme of people and place, some of those photographers included Martin Parr, Simon Norfolk and Tom Hunter. The photographers work that really interested me was Tom Hunter so I did some further research on him.

Tom Hunter studied at the London college of printing and was the first photographer to have a one man show at the national gallery, London. His work has specialised in documenting life in Hackney, I looked mainly at his work; The Ghetto Series.

The title of this series comes from the name of a article in Hunters local paper, the Hackney gazette, which described the neighbourhood that he lived in as “a crime-ridden, derelict ghetto, a cancer- a blot on the landscape”. The photographs that featured in this series were a part of a campaign to save that very community from developing plans and hackney council.


Tom Hunter (1993/94). The Ghetto Series. [online]. Available at

This image looks as if it’s mainly being lit by the light in the top left hand corner of the shot, it is giving off a warmth that creates a homely vibe about the photograph. This could have been a way of expressing that these places are more than a “derelict ghetto” but homes to all of his family and friends. I also noticed each person has a different defining expression on their face with really humanises them; this could have been another tactic used by Hunter to fight the harsh word of the paper and the developing plans.

We can see that the conditions that the family are living in aren’t good; the size of the room being our first hint. They are dress in warm clothing and huddling together which suggests that they don’t have any central heating. Other hints we get about the conditions they are living in are the exposed beams and dirty walls.

The placing of the family is simple but effective; making it clear that they are the main focus of the shot but also showing the small details of the room in the background but at the same time not giving too much away.

Overall, I would say that this image was definitely a successful part of The Ghetto Series because of its clever use of the light that was available to him and the emphasis on their living conditions.


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