Connotations: Objects

The Restaurant.© Knut Skjærven.

You may have noticed that the progress of the toolbox does not follow any strict pattern. There will we more inching images later but right now we are heading back to Roland Barthes and his connotation procedures. We have already mentioned two of these, namely Trick Effects and Pose. The third connotation procedure he names Objects. Now, let’s look at that.

Barthes: “Special importance must be accorded to what could be called the posing of objects, where the meaning comes from the objects photographed (either because these objects have, if the photographer had the time, been artificially arranged in front of the camera or because the person responsible for lay-out chooses a photograph of this or that object). The interest lies in the fact that the objects are accepted inducers of associations of ideas (book-case = intellectual) or, in a more subtle way, are veritable symbols …”.

Now look at the image above. It consists of two types of elements: people and objects. The people are the three neatly dressed waiters preparing for the first dinner guests to arrive. The objects are the things that surrounds them: chairstables, a grillthe pavement, part of the street in the foreground, the doors and the windows, lampsthe facade that all functions as the wallpaper of the scene. You name the others.

There is something very disciplined over this image. The waiters have a good space between them almost as if they were places there by a director. But that which really makes the image disciplined is its overall structure, and the use of spaces and tones as a visual rhythm in the photograph.

How does that rhythm come about? If you look more closely at the photograph you will see that it is composed of rectangles and squares in a patchwork of blacks and whites and greys. There is also a good spread of black and white areas that adds to the discipline of the image. This, then, is the connotative content of the picture; discipline, control, precision, style.

I am sure that you can find other words that are as good as mine, if not better.

The curious thing about objects is that they tell a story that goes far beyond their denotative value in being chairs, windows, reflections, pavement, black and white rectangle and squares.  They induce or provoke a meaning that objectively is not really there in the picture if you look at the objects alone. This type of induction is the power of connotations. It goes far beyond what you see at the surface of things.

The importance of the use off objects in photography can be taken even a step further. Let me ask some simple questions: what does this picture tell you about the food served in the restaurant? Is it neatly arranged food or do your get messy plates with food spilled all over? What does the kitchen look like, the inside of their refrigerators? I am not going to answer these questions but there certainly are inductions at work based on the objects included. And of course, the photographer’s arrangements of them.

Expectations are built.


Relates posts in this section:  Introduction; Trick Effects; Pose; Objects; Photogenia; Aestheticism; and Syntax.

Street Photography Training Sessions: See Street University.

, , , , , , ,

  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: