Victor Burgin
[Artist and writer, b. 1941, Sheffield, England, lives in London.]

 ... looking is not indifferent. There can never be any question of “just looking”: vision is structured in such a way that the look always-already includes a history of the subject. 
 Although photographs may be shown in art galleries and sold in book form, most photographs are not seen by deliberate choice, they have no special space or time allotted to them, they are apparently (an important qualification) provided free of charge—photographs offer themselves gratuitously; whereas paintings and films readily present themselves to critical attention as objects, photographs are received rather as an environment. 
 It is [the] position, occupied in fact by the camera, which the photograph bestows on the individual looking at the photograph. 
 Even a photograph which has no actual writing on or around it is traversed by language when it is “read” by a viewer (for example, an image which is predominantly dark in tone carries all the weight of signification that darkness has been given in social use...) 
 The signifying system of photography, like that of classical painting, at once depicts a scene and the gaze of the spectator, an object and a viewing subject. 
 The intelligibility of the photograph is no simple thing; photographs are texts inscribed in terms of what we may call ‘photographic discourse’, but this discourse, like any other, engages discourses beyond itself, the ‘photographic text’, like any other, is the site of a complex intertextuality, an overlapping series of previous texts ‘taken for granted’ at a particular cultural and historical juncture. 
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