The Photographic Essay

In: English and Literature

Submitted By teresa2012
Words 2372
Pages 10
Teresa Hugo
ENC 1939: College Writing II
Scarlett Rooney
October 2, 2012
The Photographic Essay
W.J.T Mitchell believes that “Photography is and is not a language; language also is and is not photography.” (Mitchell 510) That would lead one to question where do images end and words begin? Mitchell would answer with the word “ekpharisis” (Mitchell 509), meaning that words give a voice to the photo. Victor Burgin and Ronald Barth have opposing views as to how this occurs. Roland Barth would argue that those words are written or implied, and are put there by the author. Victor Burgin believes that the words are put to the image by the viewer as he examines the photo, and that the images and words will be seen and heard concurrently. In the end, it would be agreed by both, that a reader’s emotions and experiences will guide how they “read” the words of a photograph. Victor Burgin’s idea is that the photo is a “message without a code” (Mitchell 510), and the image and the word are two separate forms of communication. If there is no caption on a photograph, the viewer would inject their own wording based upon on their own life experiences. “A photo is invaded by language the moment it is looked at and becomes an almost relic of the event it portrays.”(Mitchell) A viewer looking at a photo will immediately have thoughts come to mind, and those thoughts become the words of the photo. Roland Barth believes that a photograph has its own language that coexists within it, and he calls this a “photographic paradox” (Mitchell 512). He is saying that there are two messages in every photo: the denotation and the connotation. The denotation is the actual photo in literal form, and the connotation is what is implied or suggested by what is in the images. A photographer could change the message by changing the connotation of the photo. This could be done in many ways, such as…...

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