Visual literacy, the ability to “read” pictorial images, is a basic skill necessary for working with still and moving images. Reading images is the first step in researching images effectively – it is the start of the appraisal process. Sometimes the hardest part is figuring out the context of the photograph (or any historical artifact) and the relationship (if any) it has with other items found with it. At work, we referred to it as “forensic cataloguing” – taking all the clues you have (visual, textual, etc.) and investigating them, until you have a clearer picture of what is in front of you. Sometimes all you have to start with is the artifact itself, and a brief (often vague) notation. In the case of the photo below, I had the name of the owner, but no other contextual information was found on the photo envelope.
Take for example the photo above, on first glance it is a B&W photo of a woman in a park-like setting. Look a little closer, and you might notice the mountains in the background; the clothing she is wearing; and the style of her hair. You begin to get a clearer picture (no pun intended) of how to describe this photograph.
What if you were to add into the mix, the following two photographs found in the same negative envelope along with the photo above?