He states "I make myself the measure of photographic knowledge". Very pre-Socratic; Parmenides would be proud. But you can't make yourself a measure and then assume that anything you say applies to me.
For example, he claims that there is a clear distinction between pornographic photos and erotic photos: erotica "does not make the sexual organs into a central object." This is reasonably objective. But he goes on to argue "the pornographic body shows itself, it does not give itself, there is no generosity in it". It seems he wants to have his cake and eat it: he is prepared to dichotomize photos of naked people for himself and then to claim that this distinction can be generalised. This seems dodgy to me.
In some ways Barthes is firmly in the Cartesian tradition, using introspection to identify his clear thoughts because he seems to assume in some way that what he can conceive of clearly must in some way be true.
But Barthes is fundamentally a phenomenologist. This presupposes an external reality but then discards it in favour of subjectivity. There are "two experiences: that of the observed subject and that of the subject observing ..." This is like those literary theorists who claim that the meaning of a novel resides only in the readers' interpretations and not in the author's intentions.
There were some moments when I sat up and thought, that is interesting, I wonder ...
- The essence of photography is the pose
- Most communicative signs are arbitrary representations of reality, for example bread and pain are both alphabetical representations in different languages of something made with flour that we eat. A photo, however, is unique in being a non-arbitrary representation of its reality.
- A photograph can show someone alive who is going to die who is already dead.
December 2015; 119 pages