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In the dictionary

photograph: a picture obtained by using a camera and film that is sensitive to light

Did you see Leo’s photograph (=a photograph of Leo) in the newspaper?

So, when we say "This is my photograph".

Does it mean "This is a photograph of me" or "This is a photograph belonging to me"?

"my photograph" could mean "it is a photograph of my girlfriend & it belongs to me"?

Is it ok to say "This is my photograph of my girlfriend" = "This is a photograph of my girlfriend & it belongs to me"?

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2 Answers 2

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Unfortunately, as is often the case, a sentence can have multiple possible meanings which are distinguished by context.

In particular, a possessive used with a photograph can imply either "possession", "product", or "likeness", and the three possibilities can be completely separate.

So, when we say "This is my photograph".

Does it mean "This is a photograph of me" or "This is a photograph belonging to me"?

The most likely meaning is "This is a photograph of me." For instance, whatever you use as identification and has a picture of you, you would refer to "my photograph", even though you probably did not take it, and the question of who owns your ID is sufficiently obvious that it's unlikely to be the subject of conversation. However, if an art exhibit contains a dozen pictures of a particular tree done by different artists, you could point to one and say, "This is my photograph", and it would mean "I took this photograph." And if a pile of photographs is sitting on a table, "This is my photograph" could mean, "This particular photograph belongs to me", although the more common way to say it is, "This one is mine". Note that the fact that you took a photograph does not mean that it is your possession, since you could have given it away or sold it.

"my photograph" could mean "it is a photograph of my girlfriend & it belongs to me"?

Yes, but it could mean other things as well. It would depend on the situation.

Is it ok to say "This is my photograph of my girlfriend" = "This is a photograph of my girlfriend & it belongs to me"?

Again, it depends on situation. If you pull a photograph out of your wallet, then your meaning is the obvious one, although the person you are talking to would probably assume that you had taken it. If you said, "This is my picture of my girlfriend, taken by the famous photographer X", then that would clear up the issue.

If the photograph is hanging on your wall, or part of a photography exhibition featuring your work, your meaning is the obvious one, although the photograph might be for sale. For that matter, if the photograph had already been sold (but not taken down), then it would only mean that you had taken the picture. And, of course, that she's your girlfriend. Can't forget that.

If the photograph appears in a magazine, it does not belong to you, since you've sold it to the magazine. But it is "yours" since you took it.

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There's two questions here so we'll cover them one by one.

  1. Does This is my photograph mean that photograph is of you or that it belongs to you?

Speaking idiomatically you'd normally use this phrase to say that the photograph belonged to you.

If the photograph was of you then you would use the other form you mentioned; This is a photograph of me.

  1. In this question your assumption is correct, This is my photograph of my girlfriend DOES mean This is a photograph of my girlfriend and it belongs to me.
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  • I'm not so sure that 1) cannot also mean "a photo of me"; compare to "your photo" in "Please make sure that your photo adheres to the following requirements:", from a webpage requesting a photo id, obviously of "you", not just belonging to you
    – Stefan
    Sep 26, 2017 at 15:26

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