Image Music Text – Roland Barthes.

I knew reading this was going to be crucial and it would be really good to include a quote from Roland Barthes with his theories on semiotics, however I knew this would be a hard read therefore I put it off until last. These are the key points and quotes I picked out from Image Music Text.

“the special status of the photographic image: it is a message without a code; from which proposition an important corollary must be immediately drawn: the photographic message is a continuous message.” (Barthes, 1997: 17).

  • Denotation and connotation.

“on the one hand, the press photograph is an object that has been worked on, chosen, composed, constructed, treated according to professional, aesthetic or ideological norms which are so many factors of connotation; while on the other, this same photograph is not only perceived, received, it is read, connected more or less consciously by the public that consumed it to a traditional stock of signs.” (Barthes, 1997: 19).

  • The one without a code (photographic analogue) and the other with a code (the art).

“the photograph allows the photographer to conceal elusively the preparation to which he subjects the scene to be recorded.” (Barthes, 1997: 21).

“the methodological interest of trick effects is that they intervene without warning in the plane of denotation” (Barthes, 1997: 21).

“the image no longer illustrates the words; it is now the words which, structurally, are parasitic on the image.”  (Barthes, 1997: 25).

“Formerly, the image illustrated the text (made it clearer) today, the text loads the image, burdening it with a culture, a moral, an imagination.” (Barthes, 1997: 26).

“Thanks to its code of connotation the reading of the photograph is thus always historical; it depends on the reader’s ‘knowledge’ just as though it were a matter of real language, intelligible only if one has learned the signs.” (Barthes, 1997: 28).

“in advertising the signification of the image is undoubtedly intentional; the signified of the advertising message are formed a priori by certain attributes of the product and these signifieds have to be transmitted as clearly as possible.” (Barthes, 1997: 33).

“If the image contains signs, we can be sure that in advertising these signs are full, formed with a view to the optimum reading: the advertising image is frank, or at least emphatic.” (Barthes, 1997: 33).

“the text directs the reader through the signifieds of the image, causing him to avoid some and receive others; by means of an often subtle dispatching, it remote-controls him towards a meaning chosen in advance.” (Barthes, 1997: 40).

“the more technology develops the diffusion of information (and notably of images), the more it provides the means of masking the constructed meaning under the appearance of the given meaning.” (Barthes, 1997: 46).

“The image is penetrated through and through by the system of meaning, in exactly the same way as man is articulated to the very depths of his being in distinct languages.” (Barthes, 1997: 47).

I was apprehensive about reading this, but by taking my time and my better understanding from my other readings, it helped me digest the key points I picked from this. My first interesting point was how Barthes states “the methodological interest of trick effects is that they intervene without warning in the plane of denotation” (Barthes, 1997: 21). These ‘trick effects’ are class as editing which is performed without the viewer knowing it has been implemented – essentially what we are seeing in our advertisements today. We do not know that they are being manipulated unless they are exploited as being fake. This made me relate back to the web pages I have been looking at where campaigns are being created to promote an image label which should be used with photographs to show they have been manipulated.

Another interesting point in relation to signs and symbolism in photographs by Barthes is, “if the image contains signs, we can be sure that in advertising these signs are full, formed with a view to the optimum reading: the advertising image is frank, or at least emphatic.” (Barthes, 1997: 33). Signs which are used in advertising are there for us to fully absorb and understand. We all have our own ‘sign bank’ which enables us to recognise the signs and understand their meaning within image. He argues that because of this, the image is honest. Can I use this quote to lead onto how the manipulations in advertisements are detracting away from this dishonesty?

Image Music Text also helped my understanding of the signifier and the signified, along with denotation and connotation. Barthes explains “the image is penetrated through and through by the system of meaning, in exactly the same way as man is articulated to the very depths of his being in distinct languages.” (Barthes, 1997: 47). This highlights how thorough the elements collated to create a photograph are full of so much meaning and this is what makes photography so powerful. I think this is an important point to use when introducing my discussion of the role of the signifier and signifieds within photographs in advertisements.

Despite finding this a hard read and having to take a little longer to get my head around the key points I was picking out, I’m glad I challenged myself to understand it and provide myself with more potential quotes to include in my paper.

Barthes, R. (1997) Image Music Text. London: Fontana Press.

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~ by victoriasimkissphotography on January 26, 2015.

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