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The creation of an image through a camera lens always involves some degree of subjective choice through selection and framing by the photographer. Thus even photographs taken of objects or processes for the purposes of creating a scientific record are not necessarily objective. For example bias in selecting the field of view reduces the objectivity because the image might imply that the event photographed was common when it was in fact a rare occurrence, and vice versa. Susan Sontag (1977:6) wrote concerning the presumption of objectivity in photography:

While a painting or a prose description can never be other than a narrowly selective interpretation, a photograph can be treated as a narrowly selective transparency. But despite the presumption of veracity that gives all photographs authority, interest, seductiveness, the work that photographers do is no generic exception to the usually shady commerce between art and truth. Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience.

This complexity is perhaps best seen in photographs used in commercial advertising. For example a photograph of a woman sitting on the side of a dessert-laden table (in a print advertisement for Wedgewood tableware), can in fact be far from the objective image it appears to be (Williamson, 2014:10). The photograph manages to convey opposite meanings – highly mannered social etiquette on the one hand and indecorous behaviour on the other; but the division is not one of social class but ‘a range of media representations of periods and classes’ (Williamson, 2014:11).


Sontag, Susan (1977) On Photography, London, Penguin Books

Williamson, J (2014) Wedgewood. Source. 77, pp. 10-11