Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

How images actually work: settling a longstanding debate.

Hamlyn, Jim



As a cultural innovation, image-making is perhaps one of our most enduring forms of new media. The many technical developments necessary for the production of convincing images have emerged over the last 40,000 years, yet there is still widespread disagreement about how images actually function. Why, for instance, are animals largely indifferent to images whereas humans are fascinated by them? Several competing theories are in general circulation but it is a matter of considerable debate whether these adequately explain the mechanisms at work (or at fault) in the substitution of flat objects made of paper, pigment or pixels for the objects they represent. Since the 1960's, Australian art theorist Donald Brook has been exploring the implications of a theory of representation that has been published widely during this period. This work has been positively received but considering its implications it is somewhat surprising that it is not more widely known and discussed. This presentation focuses on a crucial element of Brook's theory which shows how imagistic representations rely not only on systematic sensory discrimination failures but on the procedural principles by which such discrimination failures can be exploited.


HAMLYN, J. 2016. How images actually work: settling a longstanding debate. International journal of the image [online], 7(1), pages 13-21. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 29, 2015
Online Publication Date Jan 8, 2016
Publication Date Mar 30, 2016
Deposit Date Dec 19, 2016
Publicly Available Date Dec 19, 2016
Journal International journal of the image
Print ISSN 2154-8560
Electronic ISSN 2154-8579
Publisher Common Ground Research Networks
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 1
Pages 13-21
Keywords Image; Representation; Depiction; Philosophy; Theory
Public URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations