How has authenticity and meaning changed for visual culture within the mass media age?

In the contextual background of visual culture, there are a number of elements that form the unique physical experience of viewing a painting. In spite of the abundance of reproductions that exist across countless media channels today, there still remains only one single place where the original work is situated. As explained by John Berger in 1972, a painting ‘can never be seen in two places at the same time’ (2008:19). Therefore, the painting’s authentic value is enriched, as it becomes assimilated with a ‘holy relic’ (Berger 2008: 21) in a shrine.

In looking at ideas of meaning and authenticity, it is important to initially define them in general terms. Although meaning is subjective, it can be interpreted in terms of ‘implied or explicit significance’ (Oxford 2018). Therefore, throughout this paper we will be using meaning to measure the value of image in relation to shifting audiences. …

How do photographers explore this notion through their work?

“Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it”[1].

This concept was drawn from Donna Tarrt’s contemporary novel The Secret History, and was influenced by the third century Greek theory of the Sublime. Although this theory consists of various interpretations, including the general acknowledgement of the Sublime to mean great beauty, this essay will explore a deeper definition of ideas of beauty, in relation to terror. Longinus is one Greek writer whose work on the Sublime seems to address this belief. He refers to this term as the ability to lead listeners into a state of “ecstasy”[2], in which the wonderful is always followed by a sense of dismay. Since the Sublime has the power to go “beyond all possibility of measurement”[3] and human grasp, one could argue that it is most compelling emotion. This is a particularly attractive area for artists to explore, as it enables the creation of the most powerful and emotionally rich images. Aristotle also perceived tragic literature to have a “paradoxical nature”[4], suggesting it was both shocking yet held poetic value. This relationship between beauty and terror is evident in the work of Sally Mann, Francesca Woodman, Richard Learoyd and Arthur Tress, whose images are capable of moving the imagination into a state of awe instilled with a degree of horror. …


Colette Slater Barrass

Third year student at Falmouth University studying BA(Hons) Graphic Design. The key areas within my work include photography, editorial design and branding.

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