Activity 6: Terry Barrett (VC)

The objective of this activity is to enhance understanding of the classification system devised by Terry Barrett.

I will briefly describe all categories but will provide more details for two of them (Interpretive + Ethically Evaluative).

Terry Barrett devised a classificatory system for photographic images and divided then into six categories:

1) Descriptive 2) Explanatory 3) Interpretive 4) Ethically evaluative 5) Aesthetically evaluative 6) Theoretical

1) Descriptive – All photographs are describing something but some of them are made to be descriptive only and have no other meaning or story. These would be photos made for ID, xrays, space photos, etc.

2) Explanatory – This type of photo is also giving some type of description but also provides some answers for scientific questions. This type of photography is often used by social and physical scientists or in the corporate business (instructions, product catalogues, etc.).

3) Interpretive – Interpretive photographs involve personal and non scientific point of view. It is not about describing anything but about giving an opinion of the situation/object/etc. This could also involve creating spiritual and unreal scenes which are usually set up. Also it involves the viewer to think about the situation/object and decide how they want to interpret the photo themselves. These types of images are often used in advertisement, art, etc. The following image is a good example of such a photo – it is a set up photo but it creates a story – story that we can decide ourselves how we want to see it. It creates a curiosity of the condition of the person (dead, drugged, passed out, …). The author is already interpreting the situation by showing us there is something wrong with this person but it is up to viewer to take a final decision of how bad it actually is.

C66-11-DansS-A-03

Source

4) Ethically evaluative – War photos would be a perfect example for this category. The purpose is to make a moral or ethical judgement. It is often used for social, political or moral issues. It’s purpose is either to create negative or positive judgement – negative in a way to raise an issue about some aspects (children labour, influence of war on children, etc.) or positive way like an advertising (make us believe that a certain product is improving the quality of life). A good example of such a photograph is a one of two child soldiers sharing a cigarette. It is not only bad showing young boys who are forced to kill and fight, just like adults but also smoke a cigarette as they act as adults in every way.

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Source

5) Aesthetically evaluative – Photographs fitting in this category are showing things in life in a pleasing way to show beautiful, elegant and nice things to the viewer. Landscapes photos, nude and still lives are usually presented as aesthetically evaluative.

6) Theoretical – The last category is about art and represents photographs that promote reflection, comment on art or are photographs about photography.

Some of the categories might be overlapping for some types of photograph. Also it can happen that a photograph is taken for one reason (representing one of the categories) but later is used for a different purpose/meaning etc. All these categories help the viewer to examine and interpret a photograph.

Photographs are considerably more than the automatic recordings of portable picturing machines and deserve detailed attention.

Source

Other sources:

http://www.terrybarrettosu.com/index.html

http://www.terrybarrettosu.com/pdfs/Barrett%20(1986)%20Types%20of%20Photographs.pdf

http://www.vinimages.com.au/2014/03/6-enhance-understanding-of-the-classification-system-devised-by-terry-barrett/

http://en.cyclopaedia.net/wiki/Terry-Barrett

 

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