Barthes’ Connotation Procedures 2: Pose.

NB! There is s completely new version of this post at Phenomenology and Photography. Please visit. /140212.

As mentioned in a recent post I will elaborate on Barthes’ connotation procedures in separate posts. Here comes then the second of Barthes’ procedures: pose.

There are, according to Barthes, 6 areas of procedures in total. For Barthes’ wording you have to read his article. Reference is made at the bottom of the post.

2. Pose

Barthes: “… it is the very pose of the subject which prepares the reading of the signifieds of connotation: youthfulness, spirituality, purity”. He says this in a discussion on a specific portrait of President John F. Kennedy from the beginning of the sixties.

Obviously a person’s, or an object’s, pose can change the meaning of a shot. Particularly on the connotative level. Does it change the impression if the person looks happy or sad, if he/her smiles or not, if he/she looks distantly up in the air, or keep eyes towards the ground? Of course it does, as do any other compositional change in the picture.

Pose then, or in more general terms, composition, is a connotation procedure. It is one of the element that you can use for inducing a specific set of meanings in a photographic message.

Here is an example. In this shot the denotative elements are the two young people, the glass cylinder, the large window in the back of the image, the brick walls, et cetera. By placing themselves, as they did, around the glass cylinder the young couple added greatly to the content of this shot by inducing playfulness, joy, happiness just to mention a few such attributes. These are the picture’s connotations.

For more on connotations (and denotations) you could go here. For another post on pose go here.

The Glass House, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark.

Copyright 2008: Knut Skjærven.

Library Thing. (Roland Barthes: Image, Music, Text, pages 15-31, Fontana Press 1977, UK. Essays selected and translated by Stephen Heath).

Buy the English translation of Barthes’ work. Follow the link and support the site:

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