In Barthes’ Rhetoric of the Image, he details how to analyze photographs to find meaning in a difficult medium. Taking the time to interpret the linguistic, denotational, and conotational aspects of an image separately and holistically gives you a full understanding of what it is that the image is meant to convey.
I agree with Barthes wholeheartedly so far, but where his claims fall off is where he admits he is cutting corners: he is only discussing advertising images… Advertising images are easier to analyze since every part of them is totally intentional, but then how does this method of analysis apply to other photographs? Professionally composed photographs will fit into the same category as advertising. Hopefully, when you pay someone to take your wedding photos, they think about what the background, poses, and point of view might signify before taking any old photograph of the couple.
On the other hand, most spur of the moment or amateur photographs (which I will henceforth refer to as snapshots) won’t have the amount of planning put into them as professional pictures. Check out the image of me meeting MC Lars again and pay closer attention.
Now answer me these questions three:
1. Why is one of the guys in a regular black shirt and the other in a black with skeleton designed shirt?
2. Why did the photographer choose to take the photograph from a position closer to the weirdo-beardo?
3. Why did the composers opt to place a glass partway visible at the bottom of the frame?
Here’s some topically relevant music to help you think:
Ready for the answers??
1.They are good looking shirts.
2. Because there was a bar in her way.
3. Because they didn’t want to hold it during the photograph.
I know this is a proof by example, but this shows that in snapshots, you can’t put as much emphasis into little details as you can in professionally composed photos. Unfortunately, figuring out what is and isn’t significant is nigh impossible in snapshots.