'The photograph both mirrors and creates a discourse with the world, and is never, despite its often passive way with things, a neutral representation. Indeed, we might argue that at every level the photograph involves a saturated ideological context. Full of meanings, it is a dense text in which is written the terms of reference by which an ideology both constructs meaning and reflects that meaning as a stamp of power and authority. We need to read it as the site of a series of simultaneous complexities and ambiguities, in which is situated not so much a mirror of the world as our way with that world; what Diane Arbus called ‘the endlessly seductive puzzle of sight’. The photographic image contains a ‘photographic message’ as part of a ‘practice of signification’ which reflects the codes, values, and beliefs of the culture as a whole. Its literalness, as such, reflects the representation of our way with the world-the site (and sight) of a series of other codes and texts, of values and hierarchies which engage other discourses and other frames of reference; hence, its deceptive simplicity, its obtuse thereness. Far from being a ‘mirror’, the photograph is one of the most complex and most problematic forms of representation. Its ordinariness belies its ambivalence and implicit difficulty as a means of representation.'
Graham Clarke, The Photograph, publisher: Oxford University Press