A theory of photography based on grammatical prepositions
By Skip Schiel
© All text copyright Skip Schiel, 2003 and earlier
Some photos are made about something, maybe about the massive march and rally in DC. Some are made for something, as I might make photos for my daughters, Jo and Kate. Or for the purposes of record keeping, or memory building. Some are made with something or somebody, as when I make a photo of a light source, partnering with the light to make a photo that uses the light. Or with another person, creating a portrait. Some are made to do something, perhaps persuade people to turn from the present war course and pursue peace and justice.
Some photos might be made by someone, as when I attempt to reveal my inner state of being by making a photo definitely by Skip Schiel. Some could be made because of somethingI make a photo of a twilight period because Im moved or I make a digital photo because my cousin, Bob, gave me a digital camera.
In this way, considering the use of prepositions, we can list the various approaches to making a photo. Any particular photo can have a multiplicity of prepositional references, but in most photos, one preposition dominates.
A preposition, grammatically, indicates a relation between a substantive (noun or noun equivalent) and a verb, adjective, or another substantive. Examples are at, by, in, to, from, with, along with words performing similar functions, such as in regard to or concerning. In a similar fashion, this theory of photographic prepositions shows that the photos relation to its function, purpose or motive can determine the function or purpose or motive for a particular form of photography.
Genres vary in their prepositional quality. Commercial photography emphasizes the preposition of to:to sell, to persuade to buy, to consume. Journalistic photography emphasizes the preposition of about:about such and such an event. Portraiture emphases with, but could also orient to forwith a person posing or a photo for a client. Landscape dwells in the realm of by: I feel therefore I photograph, what you see is a photo by me. Abstract might concentrate on by or with, depending on the photographer.
Over time the meaning or function can change. We have a slew of photos by Ansel Adams. They are primarily defined by who made them, who they are by. Their value derives from their by-ness. Historic photos often shift meaning because of the passage of time. They may have originated as photos about, but now they are photos because, because of history.
And there is more, yet to be discovered.
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