Informing Contents - Week Two Authenticity and Representation

February 5, 2019

In Camera Lucida (1980: 89) Roland Barthes states that 'In the Photograph, the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation'.

 

What Roland Barthes means and whether or not you agree.
The difference between 'authentication' and 'representation'.
How the context in which we view photographs potentially impacts upon notions of authentication and representation.
How this impacts your own practice.

 

 

I have only just started reading this book even though it has been on my shelf a few months now. So I have scan read and get the impression that although by its existence a photograph is authentic, it doesn’t mean that the contents of the photographs are real.

noeme = essence of Photography “…in Photography I can never deny that the thing has been there. There is a superimposition here: of reality and of the past” (76).
“The Photograph does not necessarily say what is no longer, but only and for certain what has been” (85).

…the realists do not take the photograph for a ‘copy’ of reality, but for an emanation of past reality: a magic, not an art. To ask whether a photograph is analogical or coded is not a good means of analysis. The important thing is that the photograph possesses an evidential force and that its testimony bears not on the object but on time. From a phenomenological viewpoint, in the Photograph, the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation (88-89).


I got a bit hung up on the word phenomenological and came across a paper by Andrew Fisher. He has a strong opinion that Barthes is a bit single-tracked minded and so I read on. But will re-read as it was pretty heavy going but to get a little understanding on the meaning from his perspective.
 
‘In Camera Lucida ’s second part Barthes presents an account of photographic time conceived in terms of time is taken to be exemplary of the period of writing, in both a personal and a historical sense. Indeed, the categories  ‘personal’  and  ‘historical’ are collapsed into one another as a phenomenological problem, and it is in be seen as  the essence of photography: ‘there exists another punctum … than the “detail”. This new punctum, which is no longer of form but of intensity, is Time, the lacerating representation.’ the emphasis of the noeme (“that-has-been”), it's pure representation. 

Having skipped back to the first question on week two, What sort of 'truth' you think photography can / might offer.
Being perfectly frank, after looking at these books the last few days I am beginning to feel there is no truth. I edit most photographs I take, even holiday ones. I take out the extending sides or take out rubbish, make the grass greener and sky bluer. And people that come to me know I am happy to modify or liquify them to give them the look they want.
When I look at my own practice I can hear Barthes when he says that everything changes in the act of posing. When we sense the camera is going to click we immediately make another body, it's almost like we have seen so many or studied so many images we automatically go into pose mode of we at whatever time saw an image, we felt it looked nice and therefore we should do the same.’ A photographic Ritual” This reinforces our identity but what we see is never what we want or even what we wanted it to signify. For example you are a very deep and depressed person, but the camera clicked the moment you smiled at something, it doesn’t give a true representation of you, and then the photo isn’t really us, it is a fragment of us as it captures the body but can’t possibly capture the mind or thoughts or feelings, so can you capture the whole person if you can’t capture what goes on in the inside of a person. So photography really transforms us, from complex human to a representation of a body, which becomes an object without a voice. Barthes thinks we feel objectification and we actually feel and see ourselves becoming objects. And then there is no control after the shutter is pressed, and then what is worse, someone sees that image in a very different way to you and plasters it over social media or even in a newspaper if you are a celebrity, and then media put your cellulite on a show for the world to see. 
Berger, the way of seeing (72)  says men act and women appear. Men look at women and women watch themselves being looked at. She turns herself into an object and most importantly an object of vision Barthes thinks we attach ourselves to certain aesthetics and I certainly do, it always seems to be historical images, be it old paintings or even old Victorian photographs. I would love to give a reason for this but the bottom line is, I like it! Barthes says that your interest in a photo makes you come alive, feel alive I guess, as images that you don’t connect to have no feeling, pretty much the same feeling I had when I went to Paris Photo and walked past photo after photo that did nothing for me. Then I came across Denis Rouvre, his photographs made me stop. There was an essence in those photographs that made me want to search out more. But Barthes thinks the images we like we put our own emotion into the photograph. I guess that would always depend on how you were feeling on that day. What is it you see, is it the historical or cultural. I do struggle to see what emotions a field of grass would have on you. I always look at my models to look right at me most of the time. The eyes being the window to the soul. Is it true, no? They are doing as asked fake sadness, fake pleasure. It is what I want it to be.

 

Some examples of authentic or not so

 

 


BARTHES, Roland. (2000). Camera lucida: reflections on photography. London, Vintage.

 

FISHER, Andrew. (2008). Beyond Barthes - Rethinking the phenomenology of photography. Radical Philosophy. 19-29.

 

https://www.parisphoto.com/en/Exhibitors/5071725/PROJECT-20/Products/1475303/Denis-Rouvre

 

Images - https://www.globalresearch.ca/media-manipulation-are-conflict-photos-staged/27141

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