Dissertation submitted for the Degree of Photomedia BA (Hons)
Chapter 1 (extract)
Although Christianity is a worldwide religion, this dissertation uses photographs of Church art and design based in the UK. When deciding which images to include, history will be no barrier, and where the message is most clear, illustrative, interesting, and that the pieces of work are photographed to a high standard, it is more likely to appear within these pages. These images are record photographs and are ‘representations of a representation’. That is, they portray, depict, symbolise or present the likeness of the subject matter using photography, and are therefore secondary sourced material (as apposed to primary sourced material); the subject matter itself also portrays, depicts or symbolises something, in this case, aspects of Christianity.
‘Aspects’ of Christianity in this case means not the whole of Christianity. The whole of Christianity involves believing unseen persons: God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Aspects of the church are also unseen. The Church here means a community of believers, and God is the only one that knows who the true believers are. In this respect the project is limited.
Having said this, the project will attempt to investigate what can be registered on film, and submits an analysis of what is being communicated. The contents of the message can bring about a particular understanding or revelation that results in change, which can be seen as evidence. (This will be looked at later on in the dissertation).
Chapter 2 looks at the meanings of the key terms that appear in the central question. It opens with ‘Christianity’ but within the first sentence a connection is made to ‘religion’. Religion is then discussed before moving onto the next key term – ‘Church’.
The term ‘Church’ with an upper case ‘C’ means something different from the word ‘church’ with a lower case ‘c’. This is unpacked starting with its Greek origins and continues with biblical references. What emerges from this chapter is that the Church is the local or worldwide collective of Saints. (A Saint is a person recognised for the holiness of their life (holy means dedicated to God and applies to all true Christians)).
The Church is also, amongst other things invisible, yet visible.
The origin of the church will also be traced and means the building where the Church meets. Chapter 2 also looks into orientation of traditional churches (e.g. facing east for worship), the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, and a synopsis of Christianity, Christianity being the last key term in the central question.
In Chapter 3 the communication theory of semiotics will be looked at. (Semiotics being the study of signs and the way they work). The examples used to illustrate the theory are taken from the terms in the central question e.g. photographs, church art and design, communication and Christianity. The three main areas of study within semiotics are: the sign itself, the codes or systems into which signs are organised, and the culture within which these codes and signs operate; each of these will be explained more fully before moving on to the status of the reader and what the reader brings to any reading of texts.
The founders of semiotics – Peirce and Saussure – will also be looked at, but the focus will be on the former. Peirce has divided his theory into two models and both will be explained. The first is called ‘elements of meaning’, while the second is called ‘categories of sign-types’. In the second model the categories are not separate or distinct.
TO WHAT EXTENT CAN PHOTOGRAPHS OF CHURCH ART AND DESIGN COMMUNICATE CHRISTIANITY?