Semiotics of Photography and Exile
Photography, according to Luigi Pirandello, is linked with the motif of exile—first and foremost, it is the estrangement between self and image under the spotlight, then the daily enlarged disparity between the perennial life preserved by the photograph and the reality of the corporeal being subject to the erosion of time. In Lu Xun’s essay “On Photography,” the author taunted country people’s superstitious belief. These country people took photography as a form of witchcraft that robs one of “vital breath” and thus causes one’s death or leaves one physically maimed.1 The equation of photography and death, however, may not be so far-fetched, as it finds an echo in a Western postmodern theorist’s writing as well. In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes expounds at great length on the semiotic link between photography and death and mourning.2 According to him, the spectacle of photography is tied to the “specter,” the theater of the dead. In its insistence on the living reality of what has been dead, photography flouts the division of reality and illusion, death and living, and thus, in my view, emblemizes the wedding of Eros and mourning in the works of nostalgia. The semiotics of photography has its characteristic tropes of exile, mourning, cultural nostalgia, and loss of reality.
KeywordsLyrical Tone Beauty Contest Adolescent Friendship Female Beauty Country People
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