The Index and the Icon

3 February 2020

Reading the title for coursework in week 2, “The Index and the Icon“, I note that I can’t parse meaning from the phrase because I do not have a firm grasp of what these terms actually mean within the context of the image. I found an article from University of Chicago School of Media where the author provides context and outlines definitions of symbol, index and icon.
Index and icon are utilized in semiotics, or the study of signs, and have specific connotations when used in this type of analysis. The index and icon relate signs to objects. The index is something that serves to guide or point out, or facilitate a reference. “The index focuses the attention”(Huening, 2004). Atkin (2010) states that if a sign is fact which connects an object to an interpretation, it is an index. He states that the connection between a murder and the victim is an index.
The icon, states Huening (2004), has properties in common with the object. He goes on to say that a photograph is “an icon, it is directly and physically influenced by its object, and is therefore an index; and lastly in requires a learned process of reading to understand it”. However, Atkin (2010) asserts that Pierce had indicated that portraits are an example of an index as, if in a realistic style, it would share qualities with the object from which the portrait was modeled.
So I wonder, what is the relationship between the index and the icon? True, they are both a form of sign according to this philosophical system. But how do leverage this system of typology in our work of creating images?
Bradley (2016) states “Signs can communicate by resembling what they represent, by implying what they represent, or through arbitrary representations that must be learned before we can understand their meaning.” I think that I have now connected this philosophical theory of signs to work which I am doing today.

This post is illustrated with a composite image that I created a few weeks ago which may be interesting to unpack using the terms index and icon. In this image, I think that the image of me with long flowing robes surrounded by a sparkly sky serves as an indication (index) that this is a constructed image. Clues include that the figure appears too large in proportion to the mountains and that the figure is scantily dressed for this mountain environment.
The icon is the mountain scene in that it visually represents the original object.


I think that I have a better understanding of the lexicon of symbols, and why it might be important to appreciate the differences and uses of these terms. While I am aware that there are signs in my work, I wasn’t really sure how I would approach maximizing the use of signs as interpretive communication. As I am now exploring momento mori, or veniere, I can consider how I want to express signs in these images: Do I want to include an index in my work? Or an icon? And how might the viewer appreciate these additions?

Atkin, A. (2010). Peirce’s Theory of Signs. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed from:

Bradley, S. (2016). Icon, Index and Symbol- Three Catagories of Signs. Vanseo Design. Accessed:

Heuning, D. (2004). The University of Chicago: Theories of Media: Keywords Glossary: symbol-index-icon. Accessed at:

Week 11: Market yourself

My objective for my photography is to raise my profile in the photography industry. My goals for the next 3 months:

  • Post on IG at least 3 times per week
  • Find hashtags which have the highest use and are most appropriate for my work
  • Update my portfolio by adding my newest work. I will update the arrangement of my work, change the font (it’s too big).
  • Apply to the Atomic Photographer’s Guild. If I am accepted, my work will be displayed on their website and will be shown at galleries.
  • Continue to increase the quality of my work by taking images weekly.
  • I will re purpose my twitter account and post images there, at least twice per week.
  • For my next quarter, I will be creating a portfolio of images of nurses for social media, presentations, pamphlets and other medium. My project will be focused on celebrating the diversity of work that nurses perform at my institution, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This project has the possibility to bring me more followers and some exposure.

18 December, 2019

(Late entry). I did apply to the Atomic Photographer’s Guild as I had mentioned. I followed the process outlined on the APG website and submitted a link to my portfolio via email. I explained my work in the email– the context and what i had set out to accomplish. The next day, I received a rather direct and critical email about my work, which was, strangely, written as if addressing my work in third person (Amy’s work, or her work). The email mentioned that I was incorrect about some dates or names of tests, such as where I referred to one some dates or test names

Weeks 8-9: Contexts and Audiences

“with each shift of location the photogram is decontextualized and, as the context changes, so does the meaning..”

Berger and Evans (1997) p 54.

I attended the 2019 Les Rencontres D’Arles, a large photographic exhibition held throughout the city of Arles, France. Arles is an ancient Roman city built at the confluence of the Rhone. Cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways and stone buildings typify this city. Most of the exhibits were placed in unused or empty buildings- beautiful, ancient buildings. This context, or setting, changed everything, to me, about the photos featured. For example, an exhibit, “The Anonymous Project“, occupied the entirety of a small, two story stone home. The premise of the project was the display of slides depicting family life in the 1960s in England. The slides had been found (in second hand shops or sales) and the photographers and subjects were thereby anonymous. The slides were displayed on back-lit acrylic panels and slideshows as an instillation. Each room of the house held a different theme with featured images located in the context of the subject. For example, images were displayed in the open refrigerator and a pullout drawer of the mocked-up kitchen. What made the exhibition was the addition of a soundtrack (from the 1940s) and home furnishings taken from that age. It was fascinating. I found myself seated on the couch of the living room, watching the slide show and feeling very sentimental. But would I have felt so sentimental if I had viewed these images in another context, like displayed on the white walls of a gallery. I don’t think so, and believe that context changes the meaning.

Audiences: Currently I am using Adobe Portfolio to house my gallery. It is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite and seamlessly meshes with Lightroom. I like that the content is responsive and can be viewed on a phone or computer with equally good results. Observing my work, I have several thoughts: I have put a lot of time and though into the construction of the photographs and am proud of that. I am pleased to have the experience of a photograph develop from idea to execution and end product. As my practice is in development, I can see changes in the quality of the photos over the last few months. The photos were taken indoors, outdoors with a flash and studio lighting, causing variations in color and dimensionality. Because of this, there is not a consistent “look” to the photographs when put together. I will continue to consider this in the future when producing a body of work.

My Work in Progress Portfolio can be found here:

Viewing my work, I wonder, who is my audience, or my “consumer”. My photographs have been an expression of me and I didn’t think about who else to which they may appeal. My audience has been whomever sees my images on Instagram, or on this blog. As my photographic practice grows, I would consider expanding into a commercial portrait market. Which makes me wonder what the difference is between audience and consumer is. I think it depends on the subject and the situation. If I am commissioned to work, then my audience would be anyone who would engage me in photographing the subject which they wish to feature. Who would my work appeal to?

Berger, J. and Evans, J., 1997. The Camerawork Essays: Context and Meaning in Photography.

Week 6-7 Peer commissioned micro-project: Psycho-Anatidae

For week 6-7, I had the opportunity to assign- and be assigned- a micro-project to complete this week by my classmate. I assigned my classmate the exercise of creating a psycho-geography around her home. Interestingly, she assigned me the same thing, however, with a creative twist: to follow my poultry exploring the world as they do.

What is a psycho-geography?

In Situationist Guy Dubord‘s 1955 essay Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography, he defined psychogeography as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.” Put simply, psychogeography is the exploration of the psychological effects of an urban environment.

Ridgway, M. (2014). An introduction to psycho-geography. The Double negative. Accessed:

The term “psycho-geography” does not apply to my assignment if I use the definition listed above. It seems to me that the rural landscape preceded the urban, therefore, the term should apply to exploring the countryside as well. I searched the term “rural psycho-geography” and found a book called Almias by Phil Legard, Layla Smith and Simon Bradley. It’s a wonderful read which describes the geography, history and mystery of Almscliff, a craggy outcrop in Yorkshire, UK. It is illustrated with creative photographs of the rocks and the immediate countryside.

What is a rural psycho-geography?

Legard, Smith and Bradley (2010) state that “The idea that psychogeography can apply to an environment which is not ‘consciously organised’ suggests that that, as with mundane geography, psychogeography can present broader arenas for exploration than solely urban space. As a discipline,geography itself is not solely about the urban, but also suggests further‘pleasingly vague’ branches of art and science  such as psychogeology , psychometeorology, psycho-  politics , and so on.

Legard, P., Smith, L., Bradley, S. (2010). Almias: Rural Psychogeography. accessed:

Pleasing vague branches or art and science seem like an invitation to a creative challenge, to me. My classmate related that she had had a bad experience with a mean goose and is, subsequently, afraid of geese. Most people that know I have geese relate that the geese (or chickens, ducks or other animals) are scary (mean, aggressive, terrible, etc). I haven’t had that experience. To me these critters are (mostly) delightful. They are my outdoor environment, my psycho-geography.

To better describe this phenomenon, I would like to propose a new term, psycho-Anatidae, which, after Guy Dubords essay would be “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of an individual. Or, as Ridgway adds, the “exploration of the psychological effects of an [Anatidae] environment”. The Anatidae family comprises of over 40 sub-families of birds, include geese and ducks. The Anatidae environment, in my back yard, includes the trees, brook, grass, woods… and other Anatidae.

As this micro-project assignment was for me to record the (geography of) psycho-Anatidae (which I argue contains other Anatids), I dutifully followed my geese and ducks and recorded them from their (low) point of view. However, displaying these photos might be problematic as they could prompt feelings of discomfort with the subject matter (for the goose-phobic). I would like to display my work AND promote Anatids as lovely, approachable creatures. I created an alternative display mode and media:

Psycho-AnatidaeDecor ™

Longing for the poultry-farm experience? Afraid of live animals?
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