Reading Questions (Barthes)

“This question grew insistent.  I was overcome by an “ontological” desire: I wanted to learn at all costs what Photography was “in itself,” by what essential feature it was to be distinguished from the community of images.” ( Barthes, 3)

When I first read this question in Camera Lucida, I expected that the entire book was going to be about divorcing the photo from its subject, focusing instead on the rhetoric that comes from its physical attributes.  Although a photo’s physicality is discussed extensively throughout the book (paintings are meant to show a constructed reality whereas photos presumably illustrate an actual reality, frames within a film are fleeting while a photo is observation of a single frame, that being printed on paper illustrates its impermanence), the majority of the book discusses how Photography represents the reality of its subject to the observers of it (what the operator wants the observer to see vs what actually draws the observer’s eyes- studium vs. punctum, how little details define the time and situation in photos more than shocking details do, and how photographs illustrate the impending demise of its subjects due to Time).   Still, I couldn’t shake the thought of the rhetorical effects of a photo’s physicality.  So my questions are these: what are the rhetorical effects of the physical body of photography, without considering its subject?  How would you compare or contrast them to the rhetorical effects caused by the subject?