John Berger

Topics: Meaning of life, Ambiguity, Photograph Pages: 3 (950 words) Published: April 15, 2000
In John Berger's essay "Another Way of Telling," Berger argues that photographs contain a "third meaning." Berger claims that the third meaning is personal and relies almost completely on the individual viewer. As a result, no photograph can convey the same message to any two people and no two photographs can convey the same message to any one person. Here, the validity of Berger's assumption crumbles. All photographs communicate one absolute truth.

Berger states, "All subjectivity is treated as private" (100). Yet, claiming that anything subjective within a photograph, its past and future, is personal only supports an absolute truth. The truth, however, is beyond the viewer's conscious interpretation and the photograph becomes ambiguous. Berger becomes mislead when he compares an individual's opinion of the past or future of a photograph to the actual truth of the photograph, thus surfaces "ambiguity." Even Berger agrees that ambiguity is the result of the viewer's personal experiences and psychology, but he ignores what the viewer cannot see. When discussing the ambiguity of the photograph of the horse and man, page 85, Berger can only guess as to why the photograph was taken and to what the meaning is. Berger describes this process as, " . . . a game of inventing meanings" (86). Here, Berger admits to creating meanings, based on his life experiences and his personal psychology. Obviously, if one places his or her own, fictitious meanings unto a photograph, there can never be a single meaning or truth. But what about the meaning of the photograph itself, alone, without Berger's private interpretation? This meaning, the absolute truth, remains hidden from all viewers because of their previous experiences, their life. Although the truth may remain disguised behind an individual's "invented" meaning it does not follow that the truth is nonexistent.

Berger also argues that ambiguity arises because photographs break the continuity of time, which...
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