Image Identification

The idea of the portrait photograph being used to identity someone has been a long stated concept in society, with the first passport photographs introduced approximately 100 years ago. Now in society nearly every form of identification relies on a photograph: driving licenses, passports, railcards, student cards, it’s now possible to use your face to unlock your phone. In the early days of photography the photograph was incorporated and used in forms of science and social study, used to study the characteristics of the human face. In war photography, the photograph was used to capture and depict real events to show the rest of the world. The photograph as identification attributed to the increasing notion of the photograph showing the truth, as long as it can be believed that the photograph is authentic and true, then we as a viewer believe it to be a document of truth.

Whilst the notion of photography as truth is being gradually deconstructed, as a society we still put our trust in the concept of the photograph as identification. However the dynamic of these photographs have definitely changed in 100 years: whereas the early passport photographs could depict whole families in a variety of different poses, now there are a list of rules which help to make the photographs consistent in style and easy to match to the real person. The lighting has to be consistent, which is why we have our photographs taken in a photo booth, or we go to an organisation that has the right photographic set up to meet our needs. There can be no smiling, no glasses, no hair covering part of the face, all of these rules are to make sure that the person can be identified clearly in the photograph. It could be said that with all the chaos in terms of photographic manipulation and fakery in the world of photography, that it is good that photographic identification can still be relied on. However whilst the photographs may not be being tampered with, the actual documents are still prone to being stolen or false versions produced. It appears to be that in all areas of image making now, the audience and the producers must be aware of how images as truth can be a flawed concept.

Identification is an interesting concept, with identity having multiple meanings in different contexts: identity as personality and identity being proof of who were are. Creative photography has branched away from the idea of documentation, becoming an expressive outlet in which people can depict their views and ideas. Identity has become part of this expression, with people using photography and more specifically, self portraits to represent their own sense of self.  However whilst creative expressions of identity and identity used for documentation are separate entities in terms of usage, the boundaries between these practices of image-making have become blurred. The photo booth has been incorporated in forms of creative photography, the neutral environment chosen by many subjects to express their identity and the identity of others in a shared practice. It is this idea of entering the photo booth and being in control of expressing my identity in a neutral environment which is really interesting to me. I will definitely be including some photo booth photography in the development of my ideas as I find the links between identity and identification really interesting to think about.

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