In the advertising image, nice bright colors–a net-sack of Panzani pasta and
assorted spaghettimakers including vegetables, fresh and plenty.
Though non-linear, many of the signs accord with a variety of "euphoric values,"
says Barthes: domestic preparation, freshness, an unpacking, the casual
market-knowledge of slow foods of a pre-mechanical pace (no need for
preservation, refrigeration). Also, in the coordination of colors and types,
Barthes suggests second meaning–Italianicity or a gathering of things
Italian, much of this "based on a familiarity with certain tourist stereotypes"
(34). Each of these meanings match with distinctive kinds of knowledge.
we find ourselves immediately at the heart of the most important problem facing
the semiology of images: can analogical representation (the ‘copy’) produce true
systems of signs and not merely agglutinations of symbols?" (32)
Onward down a trail of theorizing resembling the semiotic pursuit begun in
"The Photographic Image," Barthes names three orders of meaning in the
advertising image, three messages: "a linguistic message, a coded iconic
message, and a non-coded iconic message" (36). A reading of the image might
consider each of these messages (as well as the questions opening the essay: "How does meaning get into the image? Where does it end? And if it ends, what
is there beyond?" (32)). The meanings are discontinuous; they
involve "floating chains of signifiers" (39), and this polysemous quality–a
quality shared by all images?–opens onto choice (i.e., those two
signifiers, but not this one). Consequently, "in every society
various techniques are developed," Barthes explains, "intended to fix the
floating chain of signifieds in such a way as to counter the terror of uncertain
signs; the linguistic message is one of these techniques" (39).
The interplay of these signifying orders–the three message-types–concerns
Barthes throughout the essay. In specific cases, the linguistic message
might reinforce or "support" the coded iconic message, resulting in what he
calls anchorage: "a kind of vice which holds the connoted meanings from
proliferating, whether towards excessively individual regions (its limit, that
is to say, the projective power of the image) or towards dysphoric values" (39).
Anchorage basically involves "elucidation" and selection. Relay, a term
B. partners with anchorage, is less common, he says; as I understand it,
relay is the linguistic message that leads (often through a series of
images), thereby making the image-set or sequence "lazier." Relay
introduces diegesis; it stories the image and, as a consequence, eases or
In the final two sections of the essay–"The denoted image" and "Rhetoric of
the image"–Barthes addresses a pair of problems: the truth or fact of the image
as taken-to-be natural and the rhetorical factors affecting the reading of the
image. The first problem results from from mechanical capture and (re)production–a
sort of latent mathesis:
"the absence of a code reinforces the myth of photographic ‘naturalness’: the
scene is there, captured mechanically, not humanly (the mechanical here is a
guarantee of objectivity)" (44). Myth indeed. He continues, "What we have is a new space-time category: spatial immediacy and temporal
anteriority, the photograph being an illogical conjunction between the
here-now and the there-then. (44) And, "Hence the photograph is not the last (improved) term of the great family of
images; it corresponds to a decisive mutation of informational economies" (45).
[Strung together quotes; allowable for notes?]
Lastly, in terms of rhetoric and lexicons (lexia?), Barthes works through
some of the issues involved, from attitudes and ideology, to knowledge and
"surprises of meaning" (47): "The variation in readings is not, however, anarchic; it depends on the
different kinds of knowledge–practical, national, cultural, aesthetic–invested
in the image and these can be classified, brought into a typology" (46).