Can you think of any photographs that are not used as a means of expression or communication?

In the course book we are asked ‘Can you think of any photographs that are not used as a means of expression or communication? Blog about them.’

Off the top of my head I couldn’t think of any examples where photography isn’t used as a means of expression or communication, this feels like fundamental elements of picture making.

A poorly thought out photograph doesn’t express or communicate effectively what it intended, it may communicate something else entirely.  The photograph may also be affected by how I interpret or read the image as an individual. I have experienced already through my studies how the same image can have a different impact on different people. John Berger touches on the role of the observer in photography and art in his book ‘About Looking’ and the impact of different upbringings etc. on how you view the world.

I guess I could argue to some extent that the photograph on my driving licence or my ID for work is not really an expression, yet it is a means of communicating my identity, visual information about my face but this all has guidelines stipulated by the government or my place of work. A photograph used as a document, for example medical/scientific photography used in a Hospital, evidence for a court case or CCTV imagery.  Stephen Bull touches on this in his book Photography in chapter 6 ‘The Photograph as Document’:

‘Whereas the range of profile pictures on social networking sites have no official guidelines for them and vary widely in their style, the look of such government-controlled photographs is strictly regulated and demands that the front of the subjects head and face are fully revealed to the camera.’ 

When I bought my new camera last year I took countless shots trying to work out how to use the bloody thing. These were neither a means of expression or communication but a way for me to work out how it worked, similar to when I first picked up a camera I took loads of test shots, I still take test shots. I recently got a Polaroid camera, I’m still working on getting it right, my first 8 photographs were test shots. So technical experimentation in photography could be classed as neither expression or communication, similar to the processes the pioneers of photography must have gone through i.e. Henry Fox Talbot or Louis Daguerre.


  • Berger, J, 2009. About Looking. UK ed.. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.
  • Bull, S, 2010. Photography (Routledge Introductions to Media and Communications). Routledge.



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