Roland Barthes’ Image, Music, Text brings together major essays on the structural analysis of narrative and issues in literary theory, the semiotics of photograph and film and on the practice of music and voice. Perhaps his most famous chapter is The Death of the Author which included the following quotations:
“a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not as was hitherto said, the author.” (Barthes 1977:148).
“a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination.” (Barthes 1977:148).
Although Barthes is referring to writing in these comments they can, of course, equally apply to images and his comments about the demise of the author/photographer hold true in both cases.
I do not agree with the primacy of the reader as Barthes articulates it and whilst one of the activities this week did demonstrate that there are multiples meaning of any image, in my case it also showed that if your message is focused then the responses can be generally consistent. I was reassured that the use of metaphor in my photographic practice, either conscious or non-conscious, provides an effective way of conveying my feelings and emotions through image making. I need to ensure I continue to be aware of the signs and meanings in my work and how best to convey the narrative to the reader.
After four weeks of Informing Contexts I feel that the concepts are becoming clearer in my mind and whilst I am a way off being able to articulate and demonstrate how my practice is critically-informed I feel as if the seeds of a narrative are starting to emerge. This in turn, is informing my practice for my Work in Progress Portfolio (WIPP) that is beginning to take shape. I have a sense of the critical theory that is relevant to my work, but I have more work to do on identifying contemporary photographers, over and above those included in my pre-module assignment and previous modules. Although we are a while off thinking about our assignments, I am starting to read the assignment briefs and understanding better expectations in terms of being able to demonstrate the learning outcomes for each piece of work.
I have another week in the Isle of Skye to ‘bank’ some images for the WIPP and I hope to come to a view on the focus of my work. I also need to decide whether I will include words to accompany my images as I did in the Sustainable Prospects WIPP. My sense at the moment is that I will write a short Introduction to the work rather than adding words to every image.
So, I am a third of the way through my final taught module and then it will the push towards my Final Major Project.
BARTHES, R. 1977. Image, Music, Text. London: Fontana Press.