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Academic Paper

Title: Semiotics of Photography
Paper URL:
Author: Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: La Filológica por la Causa
Linguistic Field: Discipline of Linguistics; Discourse Analysis; Linguistic Theories; Philosophy of Language
Abstract: This Bangla paper on the semiotics of photography dealt both with still and movies and published in one and only Bangla journal of photography. There are 7 episodic representations on this topic and all of them were exemplified with photos captured by Avijit Ghosh and Pradip Dutta. Lastly Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up was analyzed by deploying Indian Philosophical tools. The salient features of the paper are as follows: I.The author dramatically opened with file with the concept of commodity fetishism so that the readers could understand the inversion of commodity and money-signifiers in the realm of market. He then introduced the basic structuralist concepts levels of semiotic analysis with a special emphasis to semantics, discourse analysis and theory of reflection. II.He further extended the commodity fetishism with the explanation of photos of mannequin as reflected in the glasses of shops. He explained two movies of Mrinal Sen (Kolkata 71 and Interview), where the protagonist stripped off the dresses of inanimate mannequin (protagonist perceived 'them' as animate beings) as he was refused to get job for his indigenous dress-code. Thus the non-discursive signs of colonialism were also revealed through this ‘violent’ incidence of ‘raping’ the inanimate that was perceived as animate — the concept of semioclasm was introduced. In this way, Marx’s comment on commodity (at a time perceptible and imperceptible) was connected with Rolland Barthes’s concept of myth (at a time true and unreal). III.The author then returned to the basics of structural semiotics (Saussure’s dichotomies). He dealt with the anthropocentric limits of perception by going beyond realism-idealism polemic. How do we, the Homo sapiens, ‘perfectly’ know signified as object? Therefore he dealt with allegedly “tampered” photos of one superman with minute details of photographic techniques along with the photos of 'invasion' in the moon. Everything is signifiers or rather representations(Derrida). IV. The theory of reflection was understood through the Vedantic concept of 'ghatakasa-patakasa' (The subject, inclining to a water-pot by turning her back to the real vast sky, perceives the reflection of the real sky in the pot’s water. If s/he copies this supplement in a canvas, s/he can create a series of supplements — n-numbers of copy’s copies. Where is the transcendental “original” signified? — everything is signifier!). And this order of signifiers was compared with the Plato’s imagined scheme of the cave. These theories of reflection (Plato, Pierce, Saussure and Vedanta) was explained through a popular movie, “Enter The Dragon”, where destroying the mirror-image means the weakening of the apparent enemy (though, according to Buddhist Philosophy, there is no enemy — everyone is “I-self” and it was pronounced by the Lee’s preceptor at the beginning of the film. The ethico-epistemological standpoints were also explained in this paper). To understand the “real” (Lacan) of the image from the perspective of positional subjectivity , a photo of a lady (branded as so-called ”tribe”, Malkangiri, Odissa, India) was shown. The lady was reluctant to be photographed alone, therefore she took her family’s photo with her. This “photo within photo” also led to n-number of reflections or mutual resemblance (cf. Samkhya darsana). Thus, this photo was not confined within the realm of so-called visual anthropology. V. From apparent structuralist position, the author was gradually switching over to post-structuralist tools. He explained the concept of “representation represents itself” (Derrida) and the concept of simulation (Baudrillard) by describing/explaining the film “Blow Up”. The concept of null-signified was introduced. The author ended up his discussion with the explanation of mimesis, both from the Indian and western perspectives.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: 009-11. Photography Charcha. 16: 1 (pp.84-5), 2 (pp. 29), 3 (25-7), 4 (pp. 47-9), 17:1 (pp.37-8), 2 (pp.46-48), 3 (pg. 51) RN 61402/94
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