Today we explored the different ways in which an image can be constructed and looked at how these ‘modes of construction’ effect meaning and can deliberately change a story. Briefly, these modes are:

  • Natural (no posing or editing and generally natural light, e.g. paparazzi shot of a holidaying celebrity) /
  • Controlled (aspects are set, such as lighting, background and poses, e.g. red carpet at a film premiere) /
  • Constructed (a shoot with stylists, art directors, studio lighting and a lot of post-production, but will often maintain a natural look) /
  • Studio (a totally controlled environment with the aim of creating a particular end result. Almost any concept is achievable with high budget studio and post-production work)
  • Retouching (the method of changing an image to make it more aesthetically or artistically pleasing through post-production, e.g. editing in Adobe Photoshop)
  • Point of view (providing a particular angle on an image will effect whose eyes you are seeing the scene from, and therefore what feelings are evoked)
  • Fragments of time – what happens next? (an image can display only part of a story, which may be far from the full truth)
  • Fiction (creating a scene or manipulating the subjects within the scene to show something that did not happen)
  • Omission – what don’t you see? (including only certain aspects of a scene to change the meaning conveyed)

Here is a clear illustration of how what a photographer chooses to include in the image can change the meaning conveyed to the viewer. The image on the left is an award winning photograph taken by Paul Hansen and the photograph on the right, taken by Nathan Weber, shows the reality of the scene:


Below I have included an interesting video that we watched in class, which shows the reality of conflict photography. The footage was shot in Jerusalem by Italian photographer Ruben Salvadori.

Photojournalism Behind the Scenes [ITA-ENG subs] from Ruben Salvadori on Vimeo.

After exploring modes of construction, we were tasked with discussing a staged photograph, which had been portrayed as news I chose to discuss an image taken in Lebanon shortly after an airstrike. You can find my thoughts and examination of the image in my post Constructed Images – Lebanon.

I feel today’s class on modes of construction has gone very well and I’ve learned to look at certain images in a totally new light, especially the two of the death of Fabienne in Haiti. I’ll try to think about what meaning I am conveying with images I take in the future and question whether it really reflects the scene and what I want to say. To me, thinking about the meaning of an image before you capture it seems a very powerful tool.