The Contextualization Is an Important Step to Analyze a photograph

Photograph in Black and White of Poles planted in a Pond. Conceptual Photograph.
Photograph in Black and White of Poles planted in a Pond. Conceptual Photograph.

Step #3: The Contextualization of Photographs

This contextualization of a photograph can be likened in a certain way to storytelling. In this article, I explain the importance of storytelling to enhance the impact of a photo.

This third step should allow you to narratively state what you know about the context of the creation of the photograph or series.

This step requires you to be interested in the external elements of the photograph.

For example, you must:

  • Know the artistic and technical context of photography.
  • Understand the environmental context in which the photo was made.
  • Appreciate the personal history of the photographer. It will allow you to better understand the motivations of his artistic acts.

All these elements allow you to better contextualize photography. This will enhance your memory of the work. You have probably already realized that an anecdote is a true plus to remembering a photographic work.

Contextualization requires general photographic culture as I wrote in this article. I agree that photographic culture does not particularly help to appreciate a photographic work. However, it allows you to progress to the analysis phase. I think that possessing photographic culture is a real benefit because it will broaden your mind, allowing you to see details and better understand the author’s artistic approach.

Knowing the history of a photograph also allows you to judge the difficulty of its creation. This will help you judge a photo better

Step #4: The Interpretation

The photographic interpretation gives deeps meaning to an image. You are still not in a judgment or criticism stage, but analysis stage. You must not share comments but merely say what you feel.

In this phase of interpretation, you only bring in your personal feelings. You must not try to understand what the author of the photograph wanted to do. You must remain in your perspective.

You must interpret according to the narrative elements that I described in the third step.

During the interpretation phase, you will try:

  • To determine the different functions of the photograph you are viewing.
  • To define the symbolism that you see there.
  • To explain why this photograph speaks to you.

This essential step is a form of introspection. You do an analysis of yourself in relation to the photograph you are looking at. You try to understand the motivations that drove you to analyze this specific picture. You must search for a sense of meaning in the assembly of elements.

Make your emotions, your feelings, and your experiences speak to match words to what you see.

In this step, you can make comparisons with other photographs or series of a similar kind.

The interpretation is totally subjective because it depends on you alone.

If you ask another person to share their feelings, the result will certainly be very different. You can then compare your ideas, thus establishing a more enriching experience.

An Example of the Analysis of a Photograph

Photograph in Black and White of Poles planted in a Pond. Conceptual Photograph.
Photograph in Black and White of Poles planted in a Pond. Conceptual Photograph.

Step #1: Visual Description

This photograph represents wooden stakes planted in the ground. Some of the stakes are interconnected by barbed wire. The reflection of these stakes suggests that the photo was created on the thin surface of water.

The name of this photograph is "Forgotten I". It is part of a collection called "Forgotten". It was created by Amar Guillen. The title corresponds to what the picture shows: stakes forgotten for a long time. They are utterly abandoned.

This is clearly a conceptual creative approach.

Step #2: Technical Analysis

This photo does not leave us feeling indifferent. The photo questions our souls. Where was this picture taken? Why are these pickets abandoned? Why are they in the water? What happened here? Has a village been engulfed? The number of questions prove that it is a photo that has significant impact.

The stakes are aligned in a diagonal rising from right to left. This evokes a positive note. We still have hope. What happened here may not be as dramatic as we initially believed.

The horizontal framing accentuates the space and gives depth to the photo.

The choice of black and white with a negative space in high key further illuminates the effects of loneliness and abandonment.

The masses are managed in a harmonious way. The photo is bright, easy to read, and easily decrypted.

The reflection of the stakes on the water is a strong attribute.

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Step #3: The Contextualization of The Photograph

This photograph was made on a pond. Several carriages were mounted around this pond because deer came to bathe during periods of high heat in the daytime.

It was while looking at them through a window of the lookout that the idea came to me to focus on evoking solitude, oblivion, and abandonment. I wanted to build a strong symbolic image with a total dematerialization of the surrounding environment. I desired for the stakes to “float” weightlessly in the air. This appears to have occurred, thanks to the reflected image in the water. I really like the photographic suggestion depicted here. Everyone can travel and imagine a story that belongs only to him or her.

Step #4: Interpretation

I will not give my interpretation of this photograph because I have already done so in the previous paragraph. It is up to you to say how you feel by looking at this photo.

If you wish, you may write a comment at the bottom of the page to describe your feelings in a few words.


Analyzing a photograph or a series of photos is not a judgment or criticism phase. This is a phase that is progressive.

This method of analysis takes place in four stages: the first two are visual and allow the photographer to define the elements that he or she sees. The third requires photographic culture. The fourth appeals to the viewer: it is introspective.

Try to apply this method of photographic analysis and you will notice a noticeable improvement of your photographic vision.

Your creativity will improve because you will have points of reference that support your development.

Photographic analysis is one of the key elements to master to allow you to bring forth even more interesting photos.


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