Reading Identity in Everyday Images

By Daniel Labbato.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 4, 2014 $US5.00

This presentation offers a visual exploration into the construction of visual structures by relating them to linguistic structures. Using two websites, and, I explore the arbitrary reading of visual identity and the subsequent blurring of the lines between the visual and linguistic. The argument situates itself between photography’s indexicality (capacity to produce essential identity) and the photograph’s polysemy (viewer constructed meaning). I postulate that a viewer assigns identity despite the knowledge of photographic construction. As a result, the viewer disregards the disconnect between what s/he knows as a socially constructed sign and the need to construe identity. Using semiotics, I clarify how the viewer projects an arbitrary identity when applying linguistic subject/predicate structures to a photograph’s randomized visual elements as well as problematize the verb “to be” when determining identity. This article is a review of the theory used in creating these websites and illustrates how they function. As such, the websites are part of a larger project to design research studies and tools to educate students. In this sense the websites were created to “operationalize” theory.

Keywords: Polysemy, Reification, Correspondence, Operationalize, Semiosis, Ontology

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 4, Issue 2, June 2014, pp.81-93. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 4, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 454.531KB)).

Asst. Prof. Daniel Labbato

Assistant Professor, Department of Media and Communications, State University of New York at New Paltz, New Paltz, New York, USA