Syntax is the last of the connotation procedures mentioned by Roland Barthes.
He says: “Naturally, several photographs can come together to form a sequence (this is commonly the case in illustrated magazines); the signifier of connotation is then no longer to be found at the level of any one of the fragments of the sequence but at that – what the linguists would call the suprasegmental level – of the concatenation”./24
The Free Dictionary defined concatenation as “a series of interconnected events, concepts, etc.” Or simply “To connect or link in a series or chain”.
In spite of the difficult words used by Barthes the idea is very simple. If there is more than one image you have a possible picture story. The connotative content is then based on all the images involved and not the single ones in isolation. I don’t think it is necessary to be more difficult than that? Call it suprasegmental if you like.
Henri Cartier – Bresson would have liked this since he 9 years earlier spoke about the same phenomenon. In his prelude to The Decisive Moment (1952) he speaks about the picture story and the need for having more than a single photo to illustrate a point: “Sometimes there is one unique picture whose composition possesses such vigor and richness, and whose content so radiates outward from it, that this single picture is the whole story in itself. But this rarely happens.”/The Minds Eye/23
Often Cartier – Bresson uses more than one image to cover a story. As do most photo journalists.
There are different dimensions in this phenomenon. Both Barthes and Cartier – Bresson suggest that the syntax is within a single story in, for instance, a magazine. But what about the connotations that might emerge from all the images in a specific magazine? Or even more magazine. Could be called an editorial style. There certainly is a level of syntax there too.
What about the even more complex situations that emerges when both the viewer and the viewed, the perceiver and the thing perceived, are considered as segments in the same event? Just a question.
Definitely the last words on connotation procedures have not been said yet. That is another story. As for Roland Barthes, the story ends here.
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