Pt3 Project 4 Author? What Author?

Read Michel Foucault’s essay What is an Author? pps 949 – 953 in Art in Theory: 1900 – 2000 and Roland Barthes’ essay The Death of the Author, in Image Music, Text xxiii pps 142 – 148 making your notes in the usual way.

1. Not all forms of the written word are documents that can be said to have an author (individual presence) and the ones that today we say have an author historically were anonymous although this was due to the fact that having an opinion probably meant sticking your head above the parapet regards religion and governance. It was only the scientific literature that needed a name to legitimise it.

According to St Jerome there are 4 criteria to distinguish whether text is by the same person, 1. out of all the texts that don’t come up to the same standard. 2. Remove all that don’t agree with the opinions. 3. Remove ones that don’t use the same style of language usage. 4. anything that refers to a point after the writers death has to be removed as well.

Modern critisism is because the author has a personal history that influences what they have written, be it due to their age, influences or the era in which they live. “the author also serves to neutralise the contradictions that may emerge in a series of texts”.

The class of the writer will also show in the text, not least in the type of text being written or the culture it was written from, (although this doesn’t take into account the throwaway nature of the ease in righting to WWW. Isolation and anonymity are probably more dangerous in this situation, not sure I’d want people to prefer not to be recognised by their writing)

Also, the writer should not be idealogical, trying to get their point across (not going to happen). He believed the author became more important than the point they were making, that the value on their words was more important in some cultures. This value on the author decided the subjects discussed and how, by taking away the value of the author, he believed that the subjects would change and the content with it.

Foucault thinks these personal distinctions are the reason we should be anonymous, however I’d argue they are the reason we should be open so that you can look at a persons views and openly decide as the reader which elements you need to trust (take reading the Daily Mail, any given day, everything will give you cancer and then tomorrow help you live forever, however I understand that is the nature of the writing so I can take it with the pinch of salt it requires then go fact check with other publications, why shouldn’t I be able to do that with authored work outside the papers?) Personally, this utopian system of work coming about in a way as to not inform of an author voice, that is, presumably to inform, but not judge or proffer an opinion wouldn’t be possible. I don’t believe that an anonymous person will be able to withhold their personal views over openly discussing the subject. I don’t think you need the personal history (ie the tortured Van Gogh) to inform on the why or how, but the individual history has to exist to reveal the want to create whatever it is anyway and creating so as to not leave a noticeable imprint on the work, is in a way still leaving an imprint on the work.



2.Barthes states that as writing is a conglomeration of previously written text, its not the work of the author. However thanks to capitalism the author has come forward as more important “the author ‘confiding’ in us.”

“A texts unity lies not in its origin but in its destination”. The readers engagement is more important than the writer. This isn’t always true. sometimes I make pictures because the idea is sat in my head for a long time and I need to get it out, so create. I’m not worried about how its interpreted at this point although as someone who wishes to sell art, I’d have to say the reader of the pictures has to be important or I run the risk of never selling anything. Should we really be saying that we will only offer the reader what needs to be written and not what they want to read? Are we as readers really not adult enough to make the decision? And does this deal with the purists who believe that arts voice is more important?

Writers shouldn’t use I

That criticism of writing is futile and that we should just read text for what it is?

He also seems to infer that the reader has no history? Which can’t be true or text would never reach beyond Janet and John. I get the idea, that in removing the importance of the writers voice and opinion, there should be more information for the reader, however, writers get better because they identify with their own use of the language and as informative as writing should be, it also has to be written in a way that I wish to continue reading. The context the word are used in are at least as important as the words used and understanding the person that put the words down in some instances can be as important.

This also doesn’t allow for stealing like an artist, we learn by looking at the work of other artists and emulating it, then cherry picking off the techniques that slowly inform our personal style or ‘voice’. No matter the medium of creation, we would have to allow for this or there would be no progress.

Look at Sherrie Levine’s images and the work of Cindy Sherman.

• Look at the work of these two artists – or another two artists whose work seems either to be derived from a reading of the two articles you’ve read, or whose work is better explained in the light of them. One of each would be ideal. You are probably best searching amongst the younger cohort of contemporary artists.

Cindy Sherman’s images are photographs where primarily she plays a different character each time. These have developed over the decades she has been doing them, so that earlier series have been noticeably cinematic in reference. Most current have been play acting strong characters from classical art or history: wearing a nude suit that doesn’t attempt to look realistic and carrying a sword. This image she is next to another character sat demurely in a feminine dress both against a background of a mirror image riverside almost looking like an etching. This untitled image seems to be making us think about female roles and their contradictions, whether those contradictions have come down through history or sideways from our own society, Cindy is asking us to review our relationship to them as the reader (much like Barthes) and think less about her impact as the author as she is playing all the roles with the same value.

Sherrie Levine’s 1981 work was rephotographing the catalogue of photos by a depression era male photographer, Walker Evans. If you take the Foucault and Barthes essays at face value when looking at Sherries work, it is more understandable, the images still have impact as showing the history of the people they represent within the timeframe they lived, however, the weight of the creater/author of the images changes and creates its own relationship with you the viewer while you puzzle out the why of doing it. The value of the images as hijacked photos may have a new value being done from the perspective of a known woman/author, however against the anonymous ideal of the essay’s it loses this area of impact.

• If the birth of the reader is at the expense of the author is there still any of Benjamin’s ‘aura’ left?

I believe the reader is important because they choose to look at/read what they want to, however taking all importance away from that which they choose to view devalues it to a point where its probably not viable to create it. The created, whether its a book, photo or a painting will have a history and I don’t think you can completely ignore it, it helps to place the item in context so that the reader can make an informed view on how to interpret. I think Foucault and Barthes views come from a marxist ideal that isn’t achievable from a capitalist construct.

• Does any of this explain or validate the un-regulated nature of the internet?

I have 2 children who I am constantly trying to get to understand that once its on the internet its incredibly difficult to remove and you need to be really sure that you want it linked to you until you earn enough to get Google to remove it…

I think that the freedom of information we now have access to is fantastic if you do actually swap channels every now and then to make informed decisions. The fact that not all of us do is worrying, I also think that making the internet anonymous would leave those in the public gaze open to abuse like you would not believe. Being accountable for what you write, even if it takes a court order to make you see sense proves that just because we have the capability to write and post online, does not always mean we should, and at least with capitalist values, the author who best represents society as we see it is paid to create that which reflects our time (50 shades of grey being the exception).

I think education from parents needs to be stronger at the point children receive electronic devices to make better decisions on what they put of themselves online.

• Does this invalidate the interest in the artist’s or creator’s intent at the time of making?

yes, if the reader is more important, then why it was created is of no consequence.

Sherman’s work is untitled, there is no explanation other than the reference that all her work follows the same pattern, so knowing her original idea is unnecessary.

Levine’s work is titled with the original photographers name, as an appropriation, it isn’t hidden, however without understanding why she’s doing it, I’m not sure that it stands on its own.

However if the author is not important, why are they going to create? it takes time to learn how to make, to sit and think through the whats and wherefores. Where is the benefit of refining the skill if it doesn’t pay for the roof over your head? Learning that what you don’t make is as important as what you do. And you won’t learn that in the utopian state the 2 essays reviewed here dream of.

Foucault, M(1979)What is an author In:Art in theory 1900-2000, Harrison, C. Wood, P. Oxford: Art in theory 1900-2000. pp. 949-953

Barthes, R(1977)The death of the author in Image music text. Fontana Press. London

Pt3 Project 3 Myth is a type of speech (pt 2)

Think carefully about the passage on meaning and form. “The meaning is always there to present the form; the form is always there to outdistance the meaning.” Annotate an artwork of your choice to illustrate your thoughts on this passage.

I’m picking Duchamps ‘Fountain’ (1917).

The urinal in its original form was signed in black paint R. Mutt. it was a white glazed earthenware piece without further plumbing. It appeared to be clean.

The story goes that during a conversation with his peers, Du Champ postulated that anything could be art because the artist said it was. he then proceeded to (under a pseudonym) enter a urinal as a work of art (this was all after not getting a picture accepted for exhibition on moral grounds). This is the form representing a point that as a form transcends the point because of its juxtaposition as a work of art. Although most of the thought against it was based on moralistic views of the time on women seeing a thing in which men pee (it wasn’t accepted).

Barthes understanding of myth took the history out of the object, so the signifier is the urinal, the signified is Du Champs (in his mind) unjust rejection of a picture he created as an artist, using a pot to piss in to display his disdain? This urinal/disdain is taken as a sign, emptied and as myth is added to the ‘all I say is art, is art’ (signified) and the urinal becomes art.

I think thats the problem that John Berger struggled with when he looked at the background value of art, the myth overcame the meaning.

So, in studying the sign, do we devalue the chosen object to the point where the original intent of the artist is completely lost?

This was I think the bit about studying art I was afraid of, the point where you have dissected the image beyond its original emotional/skill value negating it to zero and then giving it a whole new set of values, because its art.

I need a paracetamol.

Reference (Barthes and Berger included previously)

Duchamps, M(1917) Fountain (replica) [porcelain] [online image]. Place: Tate gallery. London. Available from:



Pt3 Project 3 Myth is a type of speech

We are asked to read an essay in our course reader by Roland Barthes titled Myth today, originally taken from his book Mythologies (1973)

First read.

Signified – object

Signifier – What it means to me

Sign – both together

Signification – its mythic form? “This word is here all the better justified since myth has in fact a double function: it points out and it notified, it makes understand something and it imposes it on us.

Myth is taking something factually natural emptying out the history, stating its happened and issueing it as fact.

England was an empire (ignoring all the death and servitude and cultural destruction that achieved the empire).

Second read

it refers to an object but isn’t one and is a type of communication.

Myth is a type of speech, it must be told to be mythic. Anything can be told into a myth, “open to appropriation by society”

The money we would save after brexit as a number has value on paper, however it achieved mythic value after appropriation by the brexit team. It would save the NHS… (social usage added to pure matter)

Myths come from history and can disipate.

Whilst the meaning (signifier) ‘expresses’ the object (signified)  because they are in different categories, one corresponds with another in value, this cannot make them equal because of the way we define the object and its meaning..

Bunch of roses used to signify passion so the sign (third classification) is passion filled roses, the mix of signified and signifier.

Saussure, Freud, the behaviour, the underlying meaning of the behaviour the fact that they are linked.

Sign is the myth? not substantial?

Signified+ signifier = sign, then next level for myth, sign becomes a signifier


Once we get to myth, the object is kind of irrelevant.

Image on cover of Paris Match Black child saluting tricolour. (signifier) showing France is a multicultural hotchpotch of loyal subjects (signified) so saluting child represents both of the above, this is the start of the myth, the sign being the photo content and the knowledge the child is saluting whilst being supportive of  French nation + representative of the empirical multicultural = the myth.

At which point the actual meaning behind the photo is irrelevant because it just comes to mean patriotism (the myth) and forgets the historical battles.

Myth de-politisizes the content, makes it innocent and purified.

Look up who Minou Drouet was. Why does Barthes site her?

Minou was a child poet at the age of 8 who set Paris alight, mostly in contradictions of whether she wrote her poems or her foster mother did. I think that Barthes was sceptical about either the origins or the quality of the poetry.

Think about this reference to a bunch of roses and a black pebble. Can you think of a couple of examples of elements within images that you know that signify passions, emotions or even other objects or events.

Diamonds thanks to a very successful De Beres advert campaign now represent the symbol of love at the start of your engagement.

The baby Jesus at Christmas, represents the gift and hope of the midwinter festival. Partially as a symbol of the new.

Physis comes from the Greek meaning material existence. Hence anti-physis is linked to the real and pseudo-physis is linked to ideology. So Barthes’ myth changes the real, the image, the miner in a Soviet Socialist Realist painting, for example, into ideological statement, the freedom of the worker from exploitation through fulfilling the norm or more. For example, see Leonid Kotliarov’s Portrait of Stakhanov (1938) (try 36stakhanov&Year=1936&navi=byYear). Or find your own example. It doesn’t have to be propaganda: James Ravilious’ Devon photography might fit the bill. (www.

I have chosen to look at James Ravilious’ The French family watching the Cup Final, Brendon Barton, Exmoor, England, 1985

A black and white photo of a farming kitchen from the 1980s, the rayburn is in the back left under what appears to be a water tank. next to the burner is an outdoor bin, there are clipboards on the wall and an old clock. to the right is a large kitchen table upon which are things to make tea, a milk bottle, teaspoons cups. In front of the rayburn is a sofa, it does not look new.

The thick old walls of the house visible, cracks showing, coat hangars attached to visible pipework.

There are 5 people in this picture older careworn couple (60’s?) in utilitarian clothing, the man in work boots and the woman in wellies, in the kitchen. There are 3 children 1 girl (fashionably dressed for the era) and 2 boys, one bare chested. The children appear to be teenagers and are lounging.

This family are in their own space, they are comfortable as they are and even as the daughter is trying to fit into social norms of the time, her home is a workplace before it is the middle class kitchen as a pretty thing. The items are functional and there are not many of them, so either extra things are unnecessary or not affordable within this life-choice.

The fact that the man is still in his cap inside and the woman in her wellies shows either the break for the photograph or the value of the space.

All signs of the country folk in the older generation stereotypical of the myth of the country bumpkin. The hard work and the long hours are absent from the background, the potentially well decorated other areas of the house or the middle class dress of our couple outside of this break in the day to watch football, we cannot see the tv to understand its quality, the image is only showing us what we need to fulfil the basic understanding of the type.


Barthes, R(1973)Myth today In: Visual culture reader, Jessica Evans, Stuart Hall. London. Visual culture reader. pp.51-58

Ravilious, J(1985)Dick French and family watching the Cup Final, Brendon Barton, Exmoor, (black and white photo) viewed here: [accessed 17th February 2017]



Part 3 Project 2 Structuralist analysis (b)

We are asked to find two examples of portrait photography, One formal and one informal, and annotate them to see what conventions from the formal are observed in the informal and give your thoughts on why this might be so.

The formal (informal) picture is my family visiting the White House. The blue sky above and the family statically placed directly in front of the landmark. We tuck around my Dad and Stepmom as the respectful place and the children fit in where they can.

Everyone smiles for the camera however they aren’t convincing smiles and everyone is standing as if to attention.

I understand this isn’t a proper formal photo, I’ve never had one of those done for my family, finding me that side of the lens is a rarity in itself, I’m damned if I’m paying for it.

Anyway, this as a memory has more effect for me. Its an occasion at which a photo was taken, formally smiling at the camera, me holding a coffee (now theres a sign).

The informal (informal) photo is at a jaunty angle pointed at the table this last Christmas day. There are 10 places and we sit the children at either end (2 girls and 2 boys) this way the adults can chew the fat in the middle. No-one is looking at the camera and an annual feast is in progress. lighting a before is natural, through the door at the back, a window just off one side and through the kitchen window front right. The glow from the candelabra is minimal

Aside from the convention of a family unit being together, the children crammed in and the photo marking the occasion its difficult to find similarities. the clothing is smarter for Christmas than the White House photo, which is contrary to the requirements of a formal photo.

Respectfully the adults sit together, but as the convention always states the hosts are closest to the Kitchen (and I have the best chair -a 40th birthday gift to myself with birthday monies) thats pretty much where the similarity ends.

The camera angle helps to supply some of the energy pre-eating which is removed in the static poses in front of the American residence.

However maybe the sign is the photo of the family, marking a unit at a point in time. I want to be the me in the photos surrounded by the bonhomie of the situation. These photos shouldn’t really speak to anyone else though, they don’t represent anyone else’s family.


Decoding Advertisments

Decoding Advertisements – Ideology and meaning in advertising. Judith Williams (Robert Maclehose and Company Limited. Great Britain. 1978)

When we look at adverts we use the same criteria to analyse them all, the object within the advert is personified, or talks to you (the voice over ‘speaks’ for the object) changed into a meaning from an object (Diamonds and eternal love).

Adverts turn objects into trade-able items with a value, a value that either complements how we see ourselves (and they are sold to ‘us’ individually, directly) or how we wish to be seen.

The ads even help us construct our list of things that group us and we are informed about how and what people like us should have, aspire to, or in some cases behave.

Advertising (remember this copy is written in 1978) has led to an overlay hiding the fact that 2 cars and a colour tv doesn’t make you middle class.

This hiding of the class system beneath is ideology, which continues the to keep the class system the same by creating a place we identify with being.

We do need things, to use and because they help define us, so advertising crosses the two purposes.

Part 1 ‘Advertising-Work’

Signifier, Signified, Sign.

A thing that has meaning to people/person. ‘it is neither the thing or the meaning alone, but the two combined’.

Signifier-material object

Signified-its meaning

Sign-thing plus meaning

Adverts are not simply one message. Here is a product, please buy it, it wouldn’t work, the adverts stretch the truth and we don’t need half of what we buy.

Next stage is looking at adds, and decoding.

A4 linking objects in an image, same colours ‘objective correlation’ between pack of mild cigerettes and cup of espresso.

A5 box of lambert and butler represtented in square decore of scene behind, filled with a smart social gathering, text reads ‘the world of Lambert & Butler’ . The people and world are an accessory of the product.

A6 woman in kitchen, her outfit is the same as the inside of one of the cupboards, hair – outside of cupboard, the tone of her skin matches the eggs, she blends into her kitchen, they are as one.

A7 Bronzing advert coloured in gold and brown, reflecting the colour you are supposed to end up after using the product.

pictoral advertising uses strategies differently than moving image adverts, the plane you are watching can move, cut edit and link to the product in a more obvious way than a flat picture, so use of colour and product has to fill the gap

differentiation of a product within category is first task, establishing what it isn’t.

The relevance of a film star’s image in an advert is only important if you know who she is, then you can understand her as a sign. (referent system, star lifted from an understood place and used in adverts to refer to other meaning)

A9 tomboy image of known star used to sell perfume in a different way to a more feminine style of advert. So ad is new as is the perfume. The style is differentiating it from standard perfume adverts and the known perceived  qualities of another star.

Even companies like Chanel differentiate between their own products, advert shown for No. 19 in contrast to No. 5. the models used are different, the situations in them are different

The star =’s the product however the star is ≠ to another star in the same way a product is ≠ to another product.

Adverts are supposed to create emotions, they are formulaic in that they try to create a link between emotions and products. feelings moods or attributes connected to objects

So, maybe it doesn’t invoke feeling, but promotes a link to the feeling from the product?

Beanz meanz heinz. All beans mean Heinz, not Heinz means beans.

Pavlov’s dogs, the product is linked to the feeling and over time we see the product etc…

We exchange symbols to a monetary value, even emotions that are owned by the products we are looking at.

Chapter 2

Who is the ad refering too? by talking directly to me, I am part of the ad. I am placed in the best seat to view the image.

However, the inference is all about me being the person the ad is referring to so I am the person in the ad. I have become part of the advert. I am part of the club of people the advert is writing about, everyone else is outside this group, its talking directly to me (even though I’m not the only one who will view the ad).

Advertising is sexist. (I want to see if this still holds as true, the book is from a few decades ago) split personalites, where women are either working in a ‘mans world’ or being femenine. Men are either manly or doing what the family needs. however women are seemingly comfortable with this in the ads and men not so?

‘Differences are essential to signification’. each split is a difference from the other parts which then relate to you the viewer/subject.

The advert works because we want to be that person the ad is referring to.

Levi-Strauss “We have each become our own totem”. The way our society works is so linked to us and through us it effects how we react to signifiers in adverts and what signifiers go into adverts in the first place. So, if advertising seems sexist, its because its not only reflecting society, its reflecting our views. A bit chicken and egg really.

Lucan Mirror phase. Children are unformed initially free flowing. “disengagement of the ego from the general mass of sameness” then happens. Child sees themselves in the mirror and realises that its them self however it is another. Also, as child cannot see all of self, the mirror displaying a whole other form helping to separates the identity from the form.

Subject and object (of self) not separate. Sameness of images is imaginary and differences between selves is symbolic. Mirror image empty vessel this helps advertising as we put our personality into the mirror image and state that it is us. At some point it becomes a social-I instead of imaged-I once this has happened, you can’t go back to image-I.

Image we aspire to but never achieve. The person of ourselves that we see in adverts. Which is how the person in the advert can be us.

Ads are a misrepresentation of the position of us (we are not in the ad) and the person (we are not the person in the ad)

Absence in the ad.

The idea that a picture lays out the personality of a person through the objects they surround themselves with and that the absence of an actual person or people in the ad leads us to put ourselves into that place.

The sexed absence, the picture contains objects or people in a situation that refers to an ownership of the contents of the image.

This is male sexed, female is described differently. the person in the ad isn’t looking at you the viewer.

Nature:- Adverts contain the natural object, hollow it out and fill with the ‘cooked’ product.

Science:- By offering science (thats science as a whole, not a specific form or any real answers) in an advert, it is a fact and true.

Sex:- Linked to nature and culture? Advert offers concept of sex having happened or is going to happen because of product, but through knowledge of nature or science, and if its nature, its within the known boundries of the garden, not the wild (well the MG ad anyway)

Romantisism:- Links back to an ordered view of nature controlled by us/culture rather than the actual dangerous wild.

Culture:- Links into the cycle of the above by not taking the product back to nature totally, having transformed it through cultural views.

Magic – transformational referent system.

Shows movement from the real to a different future which is bigger better brighter, without explaining how its achieved. Magic

Time – Through the story in the advert, and the objects pictured, time is referenced in past and future, present can’t be as you the viewer are in the present looking at the ad.

Adverts mythic own structure so that the ad can refer to adverts in itself so supposedly rising above all ads whilst still being one.

Adverts equate the object to something completely unrelated  ie OXO mum and family love sells OXO cubes. The shared history of the Sunday lunch and the future purchase of OXO to create those Sunday lunches (and memories) with your own family, replacing Linda Bellingham with yourself.

Good book. Definitely recommend it.


Williamson, J(1978)Decoding advertisements. Paperback edition. Marion Boyars publishers Ltd. London





Part 3 Project 2 Structuralist analysis (a)

We are asked to find two examples of naturalistic paintings of a particular genre – landscape portraiture or whatever – and annotate them to discover the similar conventions 0f representation: medium, format, allusion, purpose, etc.

I have picked 2 pictures of Stonehenge, one by Constable and one by Turner.

Turners, (to the left) watercolour is looking approx south east through the stones. There is lightening coming from the clouds into the stones and the clouds are well lit. this light shafts down to the stones making then fain and sketchy to view. they also seem thinner than real life.

The flat foreground is cast in a large shadow till our nearest point where there is light. There are sheep around the stones and into the foreground some of these are lying down while some other sheep appear to be nuzzling them. there is a single human figure in this scene, it seems rather incomplete but it is lying on the ground, wearing a hat and a noticeable blue shirt. at its feet stands a dog (?) mouth open as if making noise, although to whom isn’t known as there is nothing to that portion of the paper.

The colour of the picture is much more yellow than when a bolt of lightening hits in the real world and the prone figure is the brightest patch of colour. This blue is replicated thinly in areas of the sky, the area to the right using a different mix. there appear to be brown, yellow, black, blue and possibly green at the back of the stones on the ground. There is evidence of colour mixing. The brown is mostly under the forms prone in the foreground.

Constables watercolour is looking approx north east through the stones from a position closer than Turner in his painting. there are no animals or humans depicted, and the clouds are darker with much more shadow over and around the stones.

Colours in this painting appear to be limited to a purple, black, a sort of olive green and possibly some white. There are arcs coming out of the cloud and landing in the stones, they show an absence of colour. There appears to be a suggestion of rolling land far back in the right, this appears to me with purple hedgerows and trees.

In comparison

Both of these pictures at the least had their supporting sketches done within a few years of each other even if the final piece for Constable wasn’t done till the 1830’s.

Both artists had an ability for tightly controlled final oil paintings and loose watercolours backed up by excellent pencil sketching.

The land around Constables stones is either dappled in shadow or undulating, however, it seems less flat than Turners. Constables painting also seems to be a more intimate interaction with the stones in their wild element, we are invited to be surrounded by the storm and be close to the ancient formation, the untamed hinted at in the speedy brushstrokes and deep moody limited palette.

Turners is telling a story, the stones are just a backdrop to show the strength of stone in an empty landscape being smote by lightening. the sheep are acting as the weakness we can empathise with while surrounded by all the chaos the weather is bringing. The link between the blues in the humans shirt and the sky is more indicative of his next journey being his final. This is a picture about strength and its all in the sky which must be an allegory on God. Whereas Constables is more a statement on the unforced expressive natural. Mystery and the unknown is focused in the history (we are still finding out about now) in the stones we can almost touch.

Turner, J(c.1827-28)Stonehenge [Watercolour] Salisbury Museum. Salisbury

Constable, J(1843)Stonehenge [Watercolour] V&A museum. London


Pt 3 Project 1 Rhetoric of the image

These are my notes on Roland Barthes essay on Rhetoric of the Image (pps 33 – 40 in the course reader)

This is fascinating, I remember looking at adverts during GCSE’s and I annotated them, but didn’t get to the heat of their meaning.

images are difficult to explain, we use language which means we can end up combining symbols as opposed to identifying them individually for what they are, then theres the fact that some people think the image and its contents are not as satisfactory for imparting a meaning as language and vice versa because the image is a more ‘rich’ representation than language.

Roland’s purpose is to question “How meaning gets into the image? Where does it end? And if it ends, what is there beyond?”

By looking specifically at an advert to answer this he is eliminating the possibility that there is no meaning, an advert is created to sell.

Three messages

Roland is looking at an advert for a company called Panzani, suspended from the top left just outside the photo, is a string bag and apparently tumbling out are groceries, including spaghetti, an tin of salsa and a packet of grated parmesan. This is accompanied less visibly by fresh groceries; mushrooms, tomatoes etc.

at the bottom in capitals is written pates – sauce – parmesan a l’Italienne de luxe.

His first message is based on the written word within the advert, these from the items themselves and the advert are pointing to an Italian reference, Panzani.

The second message is the image itself which includes the text. The inference is that shopping has just happened and that this is a domestic image. Also, that this shopping wasn’t a monthly shop, but a hunt for fresh ingredients for a meal. Another Italian link are the colours of the vegetables purchased, referring back to the colour of the Italian flag (although this has less value given the Italianate brand name). it is noted here that this is a tourists reference to the theme if Italian rather than something an Italian would recognise.

The way that the preprocessed has been mixed in with the fresh also implies that the Panzani products are as good as the other bag contents and that the The meal would not be complete without the ingredients in the image.

The contents of the image, the way it is lit, the backdrop, all lead to it looking like a traditional still life image, this has connotations within certain cultures of an aesthetic that people may want to buy into.

Fourth in this section is the placement of the image in the magazine, and the labels (which need to be with the other items to be in context for this area of the message).

The message has 3 messages, Linguistic (Presumably this refers to the text in the advert) a coded iconic message and a non coded iconic message. Barthes says that the Textual is easy to separate from the other two, but that they are difficult to split and maybe we shouldn’t because they use the same icons to be deciphered. He argues that we are reading both the perceptual and cultural together.

If we understand the image easily, can find its place in society, then its justified.

Does text on an image underscore the message in the image? does it add extra information? Anchorage and Relay.

Text helps with elucidation of the image, implying.

A drawing does not contain as much info as a photo, the drawing has two cultures and a photo 1 culture and a nature it cannot undermine.

A drawing has an ethic.

A photo progresses signifieds to signifiers without transformations, it is much more literal, a recording.

So the photo as an advert is in a sense more real than a created picture the denoted image naturalises it.

The photo is hiding the more obvious meaning of the advert so we the viewer pick up the message more subtly.


Barthes, R(1964)Rhetoric of the image In: Visual culture reader, Jessica Evans, Stuart Hall. London. Visual culture reader. pp. 33-40