Obscurity is not a world unknown to Barthes. Or to his readers or his critics.
Particularly if you want to venture into his world of photography. Barthes is famous for his article on the Third Meaning, that he wrote for the French periodical Cahiers du Cinéma in 1970. Here he introduces the notion of the obtuse meaning of an image. Some would rather call this the obscure meaning of an image (I will handle this issue in a separate post).
I have to admit though, that already in 1961 when introducing his fifth connotation of aestheticism obscurity is present. To me it is, anyway.
Barthes states: “when photography turns painting, composition or visual substance treated with deliberation in its very material “texture”, it is either so as to signify itself as “art” (which was the case with the “pictorialism” of the beginning of the century) or to impose a general more subtle and complex signifier than would be possible with other connotation procedures”.
I’m am not sure what Barthes means with “a general more subtle and complex signifier”. So I am not in a position to be very helpful here. Sorry about that, but I urge you to pick up Barthes’ text directly, and tell me what this is all about. I will be more than happy to be educated here :-). How his connotation procedure of aestheticism can act as a mean of laying content into an photography, obscures me. Simple as that.
Here is an example of what I would call aestheticism in Barthes’ meaning “photography turns painting”. Or at least such a trial. This image, that is shot in Barthes’ own country, France, are overly saturated and filtered to make it look more like a painting than a photography.
Library Thing. (Roland Barthes: Image, Music, Text, pages 15-31, Fontana Press 1977, UK. Essays selected and translated by Stephen Heath).
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