UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The truth and death of indexicality : subtitle photography, philosophy and cinema Pettit, Katherine V.


This thesis traces the complicated and contradictory historical ontology of photography by examining the myths of truth and death that surround the medium. Multiple examples from contemporary narrative cinema of diverse nations, time periods and genres are used to elucidate the theoretical and philosophical issues that photography attracts. In the first half of this thesis, the "truth" of photography's indexicality is evaluated. In Chapter 1, the myth of truth is discussed within the context of the historical development of realism. Realism and "truth" are shown to be mythical constructions, which is demonstrated by the selected films that focus on the personal use of photography. Chapter 2 examines the use of photography as an institutional tool of power. The films of this chapter show that power and corruption can be synonymous. In Chapter 3, the multiple associations of death that surround photography are discussed. The indexicality of photography is shown to occupy a temporal death. In Chapter 4, the structural differences and similarities between photography and film are raised within the context of spectatorship. Finally, Chapter 5 examines the representation of death in photographic content. The Victorian craze for spirit and post-mortem photography reveals the strong preoccupation in that society with immortality. In sum, it is the integral characteristic of indexicality that both prevents photography from possessing an autonomous and singular identity while permitting the medium to have multiple meanings in diverse contexts.

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