Reflection of Week Six’s Lesson

This week we were introduced to Narrative in Photography. There are two key defining terms for this concept:

  • Text
  • Narrative


In theoretical terms, a text can be any media artifact that can be read or interpreted. Books, articles and stories are texts. But, in semiotic theory this can include:

  • Films
  • Songs
  • Photographs
  • Artwork (eg. Fine Art)

Essentially, the above uses text as a metaphor.


A narrative is a story that is told in a structural format describing fictional or non-fictional events. Therefore. photography can have a narrative. People argue that narrative should have a sense of time. On the other hand, it can be suggested that photographs, for example, capture a moment in time that may address history, development or change.

Ephemeral Culture can effect narrative as it only lasts for a short space of time (ie. pop culture) but, it can change the audiences perception of the subject that is being drawn, photographed etc. A good example of this, is Britney Spears. She was always pictured as an inspiration for many young people, somebody who was attractive yet successful. However, the ephemeral nature of the photographs taken of her shaving her head, changed this perception for many of the public and she was then seen as unstable, mentally-ill and tragic.

Pleasure VS Bliss

Roland Barthes described resolved or unresolved narratives as ‘Texts of Pleasure’ or ‘Texts of Bliss’. A narrative can either tell a complete story with a satisfactory beginning, middle and end and is classed as a ‘Text of Pleasure’. Or, a narrative can tell a story that leaves the audience with questions and is ambiguous. This is classed as ‘Texts of Bliss’.

It can be argued that there is no room for ambiguity in Journalism, especially in documentary or reportage photography. The argument is that the combination of images and text in a documentary means that all the images end up being ‘Texts of Pleasure”. However, this can be argued against the idea of ‘Photo Stories’ were the photos are the driving force behind the story. Therefore, the text is not essential to translate the meaning that the photographer is trying to stimulate.

Semiotic Theory

Semiotic Theory is the relationship that an object, photograph, art etc. can give meaning. Therefore, it can be said that anything can hold a semiotic field. For example, the colour red on a traffic light means to ‘stop’ without explicitly saying to do so. So, it can be said that narrative in photographs, art and films use semiotic theory to signify a meaning or symbolism.


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