“Don’t start me talkin’
I’ll tell everything I know
I’m gonna break up this signifyin’
’cause somebody’s got to go”
Sonny Boy Williamson: “Don’t Stop Me Talkin”
In 1916 Ferdinand De Saussure first postulated the existence of a general science of signs, or Semiology. In viewing language as a social phenomenon, he considered it as a structured system that may be viewed both synchronically and diachronically . In his own work he focussed on the synchronic relations, (the structure created by like and differing signs, or signifiers). This idea was further developed by Roland Barthes in 1964, in Elements Of Semiology. ‘Nothing is a sign unless it is interpreted as a sign’, declares C.S. Pierce. Anything can be a sign as long as someone interprets it as ‘signifying’ something – referring to or standing for something other than itself.
In his work, the Rhetoric Of The Image, Barthes considers an image of pasta used in an advertising campaign. He posits three orders of meaning in this image:
- a linguistic message
- a coded iconic message
- a non-coded iconic message
In ‘reading’ the image, consideration of these three discontinuous meanings is required. It is the interplay of these three message-types (signifying orders) which conveys the intention behind the image.
Here’s a brief discourse on one of my photos which (maybe) illustrates the point….