THE future is very difficult to predict at the best of times, but even more so in this period of rapid technological change. In the last 20 years or so we have seen the introduction of the personal computer that has made possible the digital processing of images. Within that time the language of communication has shifted from a verbal linear mode to an iconic spatial character: from DOS to Windows. The end of the PC may now be in sight, with the internet providing programmes and information to a terminal that combines workstation and television. This may have the added benefit of placing greater emphasis on the broader areas of visual communication (in which photography has a significant role). Nonetheless, the traditional chemical analog photographer may achieve enhanced status as the operator of a professional medium who is able to produce greater possibilities for authenticity and evidence than the photographer with a digital camera which may become the province of the less serious journalism and the amateur market. In this context, photography (as we knew it 15 years ago) may become a specialist craftbased medium, as is print-making, yet with enhanced professional status as mentioned above.
We have so far encountered a variety of theoretical approaches which offer many perspectives through which to consider the photographic image. From the initial starting-point we considered realism: that the camera directly transcribes what had appeared in front of the lens and the photograph shows us what we would have seen had we been there at the time. This was placed in the context of the photographer’s intentions of formalism—concerned with the material nature of the photograph; photography as a process; the photograph as an object. And expressionism, where the subject and the medium were used as a vehicle for expressing the photographer’s ideas or feelings, or an expression of the society or political context of the image and/or imagemaker. It was concluded that a photograph cannot be produced to the exclusion of any of these concerns. It is up to the photographer to consider and select the proportions and the appropriate balance as to how these intentions come to achieve significance in his or her work.
In contrast to the realist view of photography, we encountered conventionalism. This proposed that photography, like language, is a product of a particular culture and that we, as its members, are required to learn to understand photographic codes as constituting accurate representations of the world. From the polarised viewpoints of realism and conventionalism, we drew the conclusion that the photograph is able to record a