Image Clusters. A Hermeneutical Perspective on Changes to a Social Function of Photography

Michael R. Müller


Photography can be used for a wide variety of social functions. The hermeneutic method of image cluster analysis presented deals with a comparatively new social use and understanding of photography: as digital montage forming intricate compilations. At the methodological heart of this approach is the 1. figurative analysis of the compositional principles of particular image compilations, i.e., their expressive meaning. This ideographic perspective is expanded and supplemented by 2. investigating the structure of the mediated field of perception and action of each image cluster, as well as the styles of observing and knowing that they predicate. Methodologically speaking, the approach relies on an assumption that far from being an invention of technological media, the "game" (WITTGENSTEIN) which is constitutive of iconic image clusters, complete with relationships of similarity and difference, has its anthropological basis and primary social expression in people's body language and in minor social distinctions. According to this hypothesis, in recent image clusters photography is no longer necessarily understood as depicting or documenting occurrences in the lifeworld, but is instead consolidated as a collectively shared means of expression which can be repeatedly recombined to form new figures of expression—in other words, it achieves a decidedly idiomatic quality.


image analysis; image clusters; figurative hermeneutics; sociology of knowledge; visual sociology; visual studies; visual communication; digital photography

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Copyright (c) 2020 Michael R. Müller

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