Graphics / Photography Relationship

* Conference text held within the scope of İFSAK, 2. Photography Days on December 6, 1986

We will live the II. Photography Days, the scope of which is expanded compared to last year, to the fullest this month. The subject of the panel last year, carried through in a single session was “The Forms of Expression of Photography” as we will recall. I regard, the addressing of the relationship of photography with other plastic and writing arts and communication science, and the opening of a debate platform in this direction -the versatility of photography within the social order, with regard to the fact that it cannot be abstracted from other branches of art and science- as a positive development, this year. It is important that such or similar activities will enhance and expand communication between the masses, cultural exchange, inform the audience at theoretical level through the debate platform created, and will make a general assessment of the past one year. However, it is also a fact that our efforts in the theoretical and practical fields of photography in our country are not yet collective. My wish is that the Photograph Days will transform into an event like the Cinema Days, along with IFSAK (Istanbul Photography and Cinema Amateurs Club) with the participation of other associations and institutions that have spread out at country level. There is even enough accumulation today to realize this.

After a short wish, I would like to start my words with a brief summary of the communication fact, due to the versatility shown in the visual communication system by graphics and photography, we cannot abstract from each other in the social process; and as these have undertaken an important task such as organizing the relationships the individual has with the society and the society has with the individual. Because, in order to be able to evaluate the various information that the individual receives through the mass communication tools (mass media) within the social order, in terms of functionality within rational criteria, it is necessary to consider the fact and formation of communication in the general sense.

Every organic entity and system is in constant action with entities and systems other than themselves. This action is essential for the survival of the organic entity and the system, to be able to remain in harmony with its external surroundings. We understand from the research made in the field of social anthropology that as a living organism, man shapes his environment throughout his evolution.

When we think of the historical development process retroactively, the primitive men living all alone or gregariously in wilderness, on one hand struggled to survive against the harsh conditions of nature, while on the other hand they wanted to control and dominate nature. In this effort, man began to think about his future; this development process constituted the social layers. Eventually the ruled and the ruling classes emerged.

In social development, we see that the primitive men commenced production with a primitive technology: To provide food and as protection against predators, stone, stick or a blade of grass turns into a functional tool. The fact that a tool is made, even primordially, is known as the beginning of individual ownership.

In these stages, the human also develops the exchange of information with other humans. He starts imaginatively describing the truths he experiences in his relation to nature; he engraves these images on the walls of the place he lives, on the tools he uses as ornaments.

The transformation of images into tattoos, the painting of the bodies, the first primitive cave paintings and the music and dance created by harmonizing their bodies to the bizarre rhythm generated by hitting two logs against each other or simply by clapping hands, attract attention as the first forms of communication of the primitive society.

Culture is the accumulation of knowledge and stereotyped behaviors conveyed from one generation to another. In the direction of social change, it is impossible for the cultural phases to be transmitted from generation to generation without the use of language. The fact that the first human being interacts with other people or people outside his own self with his sensual and tactile organs, has led him to transmit sound.

Language is the beginning of inter-human communication; is thought to have developed together with human beings. Language is a form of communication. To define the elements that constitute the communication; according to the situation, the language used as a form of word strings, behavior pattern, or visual image (icon), is a scientific discipline on which communication theory is based. We know that language is the simplest means of communication between two people coming together.

Generally, it is possible to examine the development processes of societies in three different stages:

  1. Primitive Society structure,
  2. High culture starting with urbanization,
  3. Social system based on today’s technology / industry.

Primitive Societies are small as structures. Common living is based on common settlement or kinship. All structural changes are passed on to the future verbally, as their internal functional relations have a more concrete appearance than the technological institutions.

High Culture starts with urbanization. It is known that internal functional relations can be strengthened in urban life and at the same time can be easily distinguished from each other. When evaluating this distinction from the point of view of function, as horizontal factor, religion, political public opinion leaders and division of labor in production particularly prevail. The vertical factor of the distinction is the social classes. The arrangement of social classes is structured as a pyramid. That is, the base of the high classes is narrower than the base of the low classes. Oskar Schatz stated that this appearance of the pyramid originates from economic reasons; “this is the only way the internal functional associations of the various segments of the society can be organized by a center.”

The development of written communication along side verbal communication, which is the basis of primitive societies, enabled the transition to high cultural transition. The book, the sole tool of written language or written communication, began to be read in the middle ages. Before the Gutenberg period, all the books were written by hand. Reproduction techniques have also developed with the printing press. This technological benefit expedited the communication process, as well as the intermediary channel (media) carrying the information between the human-to-human, relationships. Thus, the information to be transmitted could reach any person. In addition, the conditions of the printing press and book circulation have shaped people in every direction and increased their individual position. During the Middle Ages, high culture was monopolized by the minority; those who read the books of that day, were again the intellectuals of that day. The polymaths of the day and Renaissance men.

… And the man of the 20th century gradually reads less. Today’s intellectuals are suffering from having less time to read due to the visual images perceived in various forms in daily life, becoming popular using different tools for various objectives and due to the fact that these images draw attention and are easily perceived. There is a continuous communication bombing, a powerful technology that is rapidly changing, even leading to social change, and a universe that it encompasses in face of today’s individual. A universe filled with verbal or word based, nonverbal or writing based, visual and tactile communication tools…

The basic segment in the relationships of the individual with his environment is organized visually. Visual perception now dominates everyday life, where almost all types of forms of expression and information with scopes expanded by communication tools, are observed. Visual communication is the common language of all individuals and is the oldest known form of communication. Visual language has been used to convey all moral, political and religious tendencies of individuals to masses, within the process extending to the first periods of mankind. The visual language thus retained its importance for centuries and today it has become the primary means of information for social life.

We can gather the visual communication tools in three groups in terms of their functions.

  1. Design tools: Photography,
  2. Popularization tools: Publishing organs and their tools: Illustrated magazine, Banner, Newspaper, Leaflet, Brochure… etc.
  3. Design and popularization tools: Audio / Visual tools: Film, TV, Video.

From these three instruments, qualitatively separated but quantitatively not abstracted from each other; the discovery that marked our age, and even shaped it, lead the present time to be referred to as the Optical Age and determined the development of other visual communication tools, is photography.

Graphic is as old as humanity, as also understood from the sense of the word, and as I conveyed at the beginning of my speech, within the frame of communication. However, it had to await the discovery of photography and the integration therewith in order to create an effective visual language. The first examples in the field of graphics were given in the posters, along with the introduction of lithography, a replication technique, between the 16th and 17th centuries. In the second half of the 19th century, the work carried out in the field of poster was usually dominated by artistic expression language; they were not carrying promotional purposes.

With the discovery of photography in the 19th century, a whole new period was entered in the communication process: The first photographic image obtained at the end of the eight-hour exposure time in 1826, the daguerreotype developed by Jean Louis Daguerre (1787-1851), in other words, direct positive not fading away in time, the launch of the first Roll-Film (Box) of the company Kodak (1888), the formation of the color photograph industry (1902), the first experiments with multilayered colored transparency films (1935-36), the color negative / positive method developed by Agfa (1937), the Polaroid technique (1947) and finally the first world fair Photokina (1950) gathering the world photography industry are important steps of the rise of photography in the process.

Today, there must be very few humane occupations that do not benefit from the qualities of photography. As its place in science and industry cannot be replaced, it also constituted basis for the development of audiovisual media such as movies, TV and Video. Photography facing us in hundreds of magazines and newspapers, in billboards stretching across the streets every day, became a part of our everyday -usual- social life. In the Renaissance period a wise person was described as “he has a good nose”, whereas today, a person who is aware of everything is described as “keeping an eye out for”. It is a fact that visual imagination is much easier to perceive than an abstract word. The visual image does not give time to think, because it calls out directly to the senses. Photography has enabled millions of reproductions of a visual image. Now the world is not told to people, it is being shown. I said that photography calls out to the senses: This feature is used in an effectively -often in the promotion / advertising field- toward directing the audience.

The naturalism aspect of photography was first used as a propaganda tool by graphic designers in 1920. The experimental methods used in the first photo-posters, that preserved their authentic features even today, emerged as a thought in face of the social and artistic limitations towards the end of World War I and photomontage known as the earliest experimental method, along with Dadaism gave their first examples. Photomontage work starting with El Lessitzki and John Heartfield, gained a new dimension with the use of typography in design by Moholy-Nagy and Herbert Bayer from the Bauhaus school. It is necessary to look at photo-montage, which is used as an effective language providing unlimited expression opportunities, in the popularization tools of visual communication, as a visionary solution of original thought and not as an inductive reasoning method for a simple examination of an event or object.

Up until very recently, the reality dimensions of the images in graphic design were mentioned; today, these images are replaced by photographic displays. In the field of printing, we are undergoing a social process wherein offset and reproduction methods have reached unbelievable dimensions, the supply / demand relationship between producers / consumers has gained density and the competition has reached uncontrollable levels. In our cities, we view hundreds of banners and similar commercial images every day. In history, such intense advertisement message was never experienced in any social formation, the intensity of visual information never reached this level. The fact that more than 80 % of the visual information is made up by photography shows the widespread use of photography in the field of graphics.

In the consumerist society we are in, the graphic designer has to use visual images that are much easier and quicker to perceive and define than a written communication, when they want to convey a product to masses. The attraction of visual image, its relation to reality, its malleability, social strata, are the reasons that constitute this need.

The area of profession arranging the producer / consumer relationship in consumerist societies -though not a rational generalization- is advertising. In this area of profession, the graphic designer and the photo designer work together. The graphic designer has undertaken the role of the creative team in advertising agencies. These teams seek answers to the question, with which design tool and in what kind of aesthetic as a consumption product of specified audience, will be resolved. If the graphic structure requires a photographic solution, the photograph designer will come into play at this stage of the work. The photograph designer, who serves a certain group of employers in one way or another, has to supply the product to be visualized in its reality dimensions. At this stage, the principle of conformity of the photography to document and reality becomes functional. Photo designers working in this field have to be professional in its fullest sense. In this area of photography, it is not possible to make mention of original creation and artistic approach, because the most important ring of the relationship chain is constituted by the client and his binding requests.

Due to the socio-economic situation of our country, the photograph designers have to carry out all kinds of work within the predefined limitations. It is also a fact that such a situation will distract them from their own personalities and alienate them.

November 1986

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