Sunday, February 11, 2007

Photograph preserves

I did not know that I need to click "publish." no wonder it didn't show..

It must be so nice to analyze the whole book in this short paper. However, the broadness of the book or messages in the book limits me (yet, I do not fully understand). So I will try to focus on a few parts which struck me like a lightning of insightfulness.

Most of time, the one who is being photographed is aware of one’s self being photographed. As being aware of that, the one engages in the action of “posing.” Barthes refers the action to “transformation”—feeling the creation of one’s body or the mortification by the photograph. Though it is imaginary, through “posing” Barthes metaphorically mentions that he derives his existence from the photographer. It is an interesting notion that by the time one performs the action, the one realizes that his image will be regenerated—possibly over and over. It is agreeable that such an action qualifies as “transformation” in the sense that the action is acknowledgement of his permanent image created. However, a question arises: what about the photograph does not involve in the action of “posing” (for example, a situation that you do not notice you are being photographed)?

In contrast to an image is being eternalized, the subject is become an object. Barthes refers this to “death”; the subject does not necessarily have any importance in the photograph anymore. It is understandable that after the photograph is taken, the subject—someone who is photographed—is breathless, motionless, and even timeless. Whether or not the subject exists any more, it is clear that it is no longer important in the photographed image itself. It is paradoxical that the photograph is no longer relevant to its referent: the photograph eternalizes and objectifies the subject or the referent. The photograph then gains its meaning or identity other than the replication image of the referent. I am not sure that Barthes meant the idea of “death” even taking into account of the referent’s existence. This, the referent’s existence does not have any influence on one’s replica, means that the photograph is granted a distinct identity or meaning apart from the referent.

“In this glum desert, suddenly a specific photograph reaches me, it animates me, and I animate it. So that is how I must name the attraction which makes it exist: an animation. The photograph itself is no way animated (I do not believe in “lifelike” photographs), but it animates me: this is what creates every adventure.”—pg20,

It might be necessary for me to connect to the class’s main focus—time machine and machine time. Despite the photograph can not exist without the referent, the photograph still exists even if the referent no longer exists. Barthes asserts that the photograph animates him. To Barthes, the photograph means preservation. It can be said “time machine”; however, the photograph does not bring you to future nor is it meant to. What I mean by ‘preservation’ is that the subject is eternalized in the photograph. This gives me a clue why Barthes prefers a photograph to a movie: “I do not believe in “lifelike” photographs.” This seems that Barthes rejects an idea of the photograph as a tool to portray the world does not exist. In the photograph, the subject is preserved for eternity that the past is present.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Silbi Song said...

Did you know that Camera Lucida is also is an optical device used as a drawing aid by artists? It performs an optical superimposition of the subject being viewed and the surface the artist is drawing on. So it creates photographic double exposure while the artist sees both scene and drawing surface simultaneously. So I guess it makes sense why Barthes used this as his book's title.
I thought it was insteresting how you mentioned the photographs that are taken without the subject noticing it. I think Barthes might have mentioned this in one of the chapters, how he would see a photo of him, but he doesn't even remember being in that place doing things that the photo showed. He said, but it was certain that he was there, wearing that outfit, standing like that, etc. So in that sense, the photograph works as a record, evidence of history. And that whole image is controlled by the photographer even when you are not "posing," since you had no control over what was being captured of you.
I felt extremly sad when I was reading this, because it really made me rethink about the way I see a photograph. Like you mentioned, Barthes viewed photographs as a symbol of death. It made me think about a picture of me when I was little. I am still alive, but the little girl in that picture no longer can be found. She is "dead"...

2/11/2007 11:36 PM  
Blogger Frank Song said...

but at the same time, she is alive in the picture.

2/12/2007 12:02 AM  
Blogger Mike Kim said...

Death and Life are all very subjective terms I think.

Thinking of a photograph as a
"time machine" is a very interesting concept which also connects to the subjectivity I mentioned above.

A girl in a photograph is "preserved" as you mentioned in your essay, because her image as seen in the photograph would be passed down through history almost eternally, unless physical damage destroys the picture.

But at the same time, as silbi metioned, that photograph also means "death" because the girl in that particular moment in the picture, is the past. It is gone.
In terms of that, the picture symbolizes the past, something that does not exist in reality.

I think "life-like" pictures are possible because if it's a very dynamic photograph, such as a kid throwing a ball, or a couple about to kiss, you anticipate and imagine the time before and after that particular moment captured inside that photograph.

2/12/2007 1:07 AM  
Blogger Silbi Song said...

Wow Mike, what you mentioned at the end about "life-like" pictures is soooooo cool. It makes sense to me. I don't know what Barthes will say to that, but you have my vote. You are so smart for thinking that. =)

2/13/2007 9:56 PM  
Blogger Jane said...

I never really thought about the "posing" pictures not capturing the moment. I think it's true that candid pictures tell better stories for those who were not present of the event taking place. On the other hand, I think that for those who are in the "posed" picture, their memory fills in all the details untold in the picture (the picture triggering them). Or is it a combination of what we remember and that which we see in the picture turns into our memory?

4/27/2007 1:20 AM  
Blogger Eddie Nguyen said...

I really like this discussion.

JAne, I like what you said about posed pictures and how people end up filling it in with personal narrative/memories. I agree, sometimes you can remember exactly how you were feeling at a certain event when you look at your expression and everyone elses. However, sometimes I look at a picture and can't remember anything about it, even when and where it was taken.

Also something interesting to note. My parents and a lot of my older 1st generation immigrant relatives have a tendency to sometimes treat video footage as if it were a camera. They would stand smiling in posed-picture positions with the only exception that that they are waving at the camera. I believe that this is due to their unfamiliarity with video and the possibilities of video footage, but I wonder how their experience is when watching this said recording. How is it similar to how they experience a picture but just more alive? What would Barthes say about it?

5/06/2007 10:12 PM  

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