Looking at an innocent photograph

I bet you’ve heard it all before. Everybody is a photographer today. Every day we see thousands of images. And today, about 95 million photos will be uploaded to Instagram.

The amount of images we see everyday is highly saturated. How these pictures operate in the world shapes our habits of looking at them, as well as sculpting our view on the world which they picture. We are used to scanning over photographs in all their shapes and forms. Glimpse in just the right amount of time to sort of get the picture of the picture.

A little over middle aged man is sitting on the grass. On his lap lies a lamb that he feeds with a bottle of milk. His dark clothes make the perfect backdrop for the little white animal he’s holding. Tan skin, like he has just stepped out of a little too long session in the solarium, and a certain grin on his face seems to appear while he focuses on holding the bottle in the right position.

I prefer photographs that whisper. The ones that want something in return and the ones I can’t really make out. Images like this happen to cross my path. Rarely rather than often. But when they do, there is something in me that switches on. I become active, rather than passive. Looking, rather than glancing. Certain photographers are good at doing this to me. Stop the rush in which you and I are living, and make me look. Really looking. They take us wandering with our eyes over the photographical surface. We look for clues, like the photograph has some kind of secret. But this photo, I could tell, wasn’t doing it on purpose. In a way, I felt I was looking at an innocent photograph.

I struggle to wrap my words around it, but this image keeps a tight grip on my attention. It’s generic, yet specific. Funny, but not hysterical. Disturbing and at the same time beautiful. The feeling that I’ve seen this image before is undoubtable, at the same time there is something about it that doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s the slick hair and the tan skin? I find it hard to pinpoint.

Photographs come with a certain warning. By this I mean, we are warned how to read the image by which accompanying information we get. It could be text, sound, place etc. We notice this, and are instructed on how to read the photograph.

By the way in which I saw this picture, I could tell it wasn’t wanting me to look at it in that way. The context just wasn’t right. I felt it almost instantly. And this made it even more exciting to me. I felt it had unintentionally touched me in a way only these kinds of images can.

We expect photographs to deliver messages, but by nature, photography is ambiguous.

Images like ones that I have described over, are somewhat radical. They counter our habits on how we look at them. By refusing a quick glance, they wrestle with the present structure in which we look, and in return we can try to grapple with the full complexity a photograph can offer.



Burrows, Thomas. Billionaire Berlusconi ‘saves’ Easter lambs from slaughter [photography]. 2017. The Daily Mail [online]. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4397852/Billionaire-Berlusconi-saves-Easter-lambs-slaughter.html(Accessed 13.03.2022)

Clark, Tim. 2018. Tim Clark talks with David Campany. 1000 Words magazine. http://www.1000wordsmag.com/david-campany/ (Accessed 13.03.2022)