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Phil Douglis | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Thirty Six: Adding or subtracting context to clarify or extend meaning tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Gallery Thirty Six: Adding or subtracting context to clarify or extend meaning

The relationship of the subject of an image to its context is at the core of photographic expression. The amount and nature of the context we bring to a picture can help the viewer understand the subject more fully. On the other hand, we can also take the subject out of its normal context to make it incongruous. Or we can choose to remove context by abstraction, extending and changing the meaning of an image by leaving it up to the imagination of the viewer to complete the “story.”

Context can appear in the environment and circumstances that support or relate to the subject, as well as in gesture, costume, or even coloration. Additional context can come along with a picture via captions, titles, or even in accompanying stories or pictures. The more we learn about the subject from such context, the more we can appreciate its meaning. Context is the great clarifier. To see something in context is to better understand it.

On the other hand, when we deliberately remove context by showing less, we ask viewers to provide a context from their own experience. The photographer who abstracts the image by removing context can challenge viewers to provide their own context, broadening and the deepening the potential meaning of a photograph.

In this gallery, I explore the relationship of context to subject – starting with a group of examples that I shot on a photo-tour of Oregon in the summer of 2006. I will be adding new images to this gallery from future trips as well. I’ve selected most of these images from my archive of digital travel articles posted at: .

This gallery is presented in "blog" style. A large thumbnail is displayed for each image, along with a detailed caption explaining how I intended to express my ideas. If you click on the large thumbnail, you can see it in its full size, as well as leave comments and read the comments of others. I hope you will be able to participate in the dialogue. I welcome your comments, suggestions, ideas, and questions, and will be delighted to respond.