Wednesday, September 7, 2005

A This-side of Language

On trauma and image from RB, "The Photographic Message":

These few remarks sketch a kind of differential table of photographic connotations, showing, if nothing else, that connotation extends a long way.  Is this to say that a pure denotation, a this-side of language, is impossible? If such a denotation exists, it is perhaps not at the level of what ordinary language calls the insignificant, the neutral, the objective, but, on the contrary, at the level of absolutely traumatic images.  The trauma can be seized in a process of photographic signification but then precisely they are indicated via a rhetorical code which distances, sublimates and pacifies them.  Truly traumatic photographs are rare, for in photography the trauma is wholly dependent on the certainty that the scene 'really' happened: the photographer had to be there (the mythical definition of denotation).  Assuming this (which, in fact, is already a connotation), the traumatic photograph (fires, shipwrecks, catastrophes, violent deaths, all captured 'from life as lived') is the photograph about which there is nothing to say; the shock-photo is by structure insignificant: no value, no knowledge, at the limit no verbal categorization can have a hold on the process instituting the signification.  One could imagine a kind of law: the more direct the trauma, the more difficult its connotation; or again, the 'mythological' effect of a photograph is inversely proportional to its traumatic effect. (30)

"The more difficult its connotation...," close to what Jeff posted Monday at this Public Address on spectacle, disaster and "signature images."

Bookmark and Share Posted by at September 7, 2005 8:00 AM to Media