Barthes’ Connotation Procedures 6: Syntax.

British Museum

British Museum

Finally, the last of Barthes’ connotation procedures coming up. And maybe the most obvious one. I has to do with picture syntax. Barthes is simply  stating that when more than one image is involved, there emerges a new connotative level based on the series or cluster of images. Please read the quote below to get a better understanding of the matter.

Look at the picture above. It is perfectly possible to analyze each individual photograph on its own, but you can also analyze the combination of the series of pictures. Sometimes, but not all the time, you might end up with connotations that differ from one image to all of them taken as a cluster. There are individual pictures in there, that e.g. do not connote “liveliness” or “youth”, but if you look at the cluster as a whole you will find such connotations.

We all know that series, or clusters, of pictures are very common. Newspaper, or magazine, articles are obvious examples where more than one image often are used. An advertising campaign, most of the time, uses more than one picture. So, be aware that you can deliberately provoke connotations by using a multiple of images. But you need to know what you are doing.

Go here to get to the other connotation procedures.

Barthes: “We have already considered a discursive reading of the object-signs within a single photograph. Naturally, several photographs can come together to form a sequence (this is commonly the case in illustrated magazines); the signifier of connotations is then no longer to be found at the level of any one of the fragments of the sequence but at that – what the linguists would call the suprasegmental level – of the concatenation. Consider for example four snaps of a presidential shoot at Rambouillet: in each the illustrious sportsman (Vincent Auriol) is pointing his rifle in some unlikely direction, to the great peril of the keepers who run away or fling themselves to the ground. The sequence (and the sequence alone) offers an effect of comedy which emerges, according to a familiar procedure, from the repetition and variation of the attitudes”.

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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