Ways of Meaning
Margaret Bourke White, Gandhi next to Spinning Wheel, 1946.











Denoted image:
We can't remove connotations of an image and see a purely literal, denoted image
  • "first degree of intelligibility" = message without code, where the relationship between signifieds and signifiers is one of recording
Barthes argues photography is the only medium that comes close to being able to do this
  • The denoted image naturalizes the symbolic message
  • Photographs have the "quality of having been there"
  • Moving images (movies, film) are a little different because we see them projected or back lit. Therefore, they have a quality that is "different than being there"
  • "The photograph must be related to a pure spectatorial, consciousness, and not to the more projective, 'magical' fictional consciousness on which film by and large depends."






















"He is fat, dirty, bearded, but the women are crazy for him. Panzani the ally of large, disgusting people"
"A pseudo-truth is surreptitiously substituted for the simple validity of openly semantic systems; the absence of code disintellectualizes the message because it seems to found in nature the signs of culture. This is without doubt an important historical paradox: the more technology developes the diffusion of information (and notably images), the more it provides the means of masking the constructed meaning under the appearance of the given meaning."











meaning is derived from a lexicon = body of knowledge within the viewer
  • meaning is constructed not solely by the creator, but also by the consumer, and the intersection of his/her lexicon(s) with the signs contained in the image
no apt language for articulating connoted signifieds
ideology = systematic body of concepts
rhetoric = entire set of connotators











With visual metaphors, transference occurs, where one signifier transfers certain qualities to another signifier