Denotation and connotation
A photograph can be interpreted on different levels.
Denotation. We can ‘translate’ an image by considering the objects within it. In the photograph below we can translate it by stating the facts of the image – a tiny dog, a lady’s legs and the front legs of a larger dog. So, the image of the little dog is a sign that denotes (represents, indicates, stands in for) a living, breathing, real-life, miniature dog. When we see the photograph of the little dog, we think of a real dog. The image of the dog denotes a real dog.
Connotation. We can also interpret these facts and say that the image is of a lady taking her two dogs for a walk in the park. So the image of the woman’s legs and the two dogs, suggest the idea of a walk in the park.
A lady, two dogs … and a walk in the park
Image by Elliott Erwitt, New York, 1974
A doll, a book … and a bedtime story
In my image below, what is denoted is a doll and a book; what is connoted is a child’s bedtime story.
My own image
Johnson, K. (2018). Elliott Erwitt’s Photographs – Review. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/10/arts/design/elliott-erwitts-photographs-review.html [Accessed 3 Feb. 2018].