The Ambiguity Of A Multiple Photograph

I had an interesting thought today, if I was to photograph myself in front of/next to a picture or set of pictures then they have effectively produced a picture(s) within a picture. This formed some questions in my mind such as does this effect the narrative of the picture? Should all the images be studied together or separately to evaluate their importance to the final image?

Here I have photographed myself in front of several different images.


So what can be or should be read from this image? It’s difficult to know what the narrative might be if you don’t know me. It could be that these are images of my home town or from a holiday.

But then why did I photograph myself in front of them?

Am I where these images are taken or am I somewhere else? Am I at home or at work?

Is this questioning important to the reading of the image?

Could it perhaps be that I produced a self-portrait coincidentally in front of these images and I had no intention of them contributing to the purpose of the image?

All that can be safely assumed is that their is a certain ambiguity to it.

All this questioning is similar to John Berger’s chapter on The Ambiguity Of The Photograph where Berger recounts being handed a photograph by a friend, not knowing the context he tried to study the visual clues such as possible date and setting in order to know it’s purpose. But that is just one photograph. My image contains multiple photographs so would this mean each image needs to be individually assessed before the general purpose of the photograph would be unlocked?

Here is where I can give some context so as to help my point make sense. This is a self-portrait of myself taken in front of a collection of film images from a trip to Berlin, they have been stuck to my wardrobe door. With this in mind, could it be that each image has it’s own story that leads to why I am taking a self-portrait in front of them or, as also suggested in Berger’s chapter on ambiguity, am I presenting one of the messages of photography and time in that I am documenting my “shock of discontinuity”?

In my personal opinion, this is difficult to answer as the meaning behind the multiple image because it is created by the photographer but is also subject to the viewers interpretation. They may know the meaning behind the image but choose to interpret differently or perhaps aren’t offered an explanation and the meaning is created by the multiple interpretations.

I would like to reflect back on this post on a later date and expand upon my own thoughts, hopefully with the contribution of the thoughts of another. I understand that perhaps my thoughts do not always make sense and I do often just let my brain flow too quickly onto a WordPress document, but I do believe in the value of RAW thoughts before I have a chance to squash my own.


My terms:

* Photograph= A Physical object

*Image= An online photograph



Berger, J. (2013) Understanding a photograph. Edited by Geoff Dyer. London: Penguin Classics

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