Barthes’ Connotation Procedures 4: Photogenia.

As mentioned in a recent post I will elaborate on Barthes’ connotation procedures in separate posts.

Here comes then the third of Barthes’ procedures: photogenia (actually his forth, but I treat them in a slighly different order). 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.

4. Photogenia

Barthes: “In photogenia the connoted message is the image itself, “embellishes” (…)  by techniques of ligthing, exposure and printing”.

What is meant by this? Any catches here? Not as far as I can see. By using different light sources, exposure techniques, and printing you can direct and control the connotation of an image. Or at least you can try to do so.

And you might add other resources for photogenia: what kind of film or non film (digital) you use, what camera and what lenses you use, what development chemicals you use (if at all). And there are more, but I think that the point has been made.

How do you treat the image in post production is a very interesting issue nowadays since different image editors are so easy to come by. Adobe Photoshop is such an editor, and the one that has been use to alter the shot below. To embellish it.

This image, that is shot at a WWII cemetery in Normandy France, has been severely changes from the original. The original was shot in full daylight. The grass was green and the crosses were white. By tweaking in Adobe Photoshop I have altered the original connotations thereby hoping to bring out some other qualities inherent in the shot and at the cemetery. I have, in the words of Barthes “embellished” this shot so that it come out with another story than that originally told.

Denotations are obviously crosses and ground. Connotations are more dramatic and point to the individual soldiers who lies buried at the cemetery. The title of the shot is Soul Prints.


Soul Prints, 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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