CAN Research 4.1 Photographs as records

Other than as a language for expression or communication, the indexical nature photography lends itself readily to the act of recording.

Historically photography enabled the recording of images to provide an understanding not possible with the human eye. Eadweard Muybridge’s 1878 photographs, for example, changed peoples’ perception as to how a horse gallops. However, the advent of digital technology revolutionised the recording capability of the medium in two ways.

Firstly in terms of the volume of images that can be digitally captured. The internal storage capabilities of cameras plus the proliferation of data storage facilities generally means that in practical terms, an unlimited number of images are possible.

Secondly, the ability to digitally control cameras and move data around the internet has ushered in previously unimaginable uses to record images.

Many modern applications for the digital recording of images, for example, CT, MRI scanning and Google Street view, have undeniable of benefits to society. However, the digitisation of photography has enabled the state to creep into our lives in ways that not everybody would approve of.

In a recent article, The Guardian (Keegan, 2019) reported that the Chinese city Chongqing has 2.58 million cameras covering a population of 15.35 million people. That’s one camera for every six people. It’s difficult to see that as a positive development for society.


Keegan, M. (2019). Big Brother is watching: Chinese city with 2.6m cameras is world’s most heavily surveilled. The Guardian. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Dec. 2019].

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