The phenomenon of emotion within a photograph

Masters Thesis

Macey, D. 2018. The phenomenon of emotion within a photograph. Masters Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Faculty of Arts and Humanities
AuthorsMacey, D.
TypeMasters Thesis
Qualification nameMA

This thesis explores how emotion is expressed in photography through portraiture. The thesis examines the concept of types and tokens to define the function of the photograph, which leads to an investigation of semiotics. It then becomes possible to analyse how different semiotic systems impact on the connotation of the image, how each system influences the portrait. By comparing two differing methods, one that is didactic and another triadic, demonstrates how each system enhances and restricts the connotation. This is taken further by exploring the use of different types of logic, deductive and inductive reasoning, and the consequences of using systems of logic.

This is followed by an analysis of Barthes and the photograph of his mother in the Winter Gardens. This example demonstrates the process of achieving a sense of contact with the person depicted and can lead to an emotional / subjective feeling response. To explore this concept there is the proposition that the viewer constructs a mental paradigm of personhood for the person depicted. The image serves as a catalyst, eventually providing an emotional connection between the viewer and the image. Using this case study as a foundation, it is then possible to introduce the Component Theory of Emotions, exploring the phenomenon of a subjective feeling response in relation to achieving a sense of contact with the person depicted in the portrait.

Through this the thesis explores the influence of culture on our reactions. The sense of contact and the subjective feeling can seem to be independent of influences, but reactions are socially based and owe more to cultural dominance instead of the viewer’s experience or knowledge. Consequently, this raises the question of photographic truth and how this can be trusted, which is possible by the viewer taking a leap of faith.

Supplemental file
File Access Level
Publication process dates
Deposited19 Mar 2019
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
Permalink -

Download files

Accepted author manuscript
  • 20
    total views
  • 18
    total downloads
  • 0
    views this month
  • 0
    downloads this month

Export as