The following is made with Supriyo's questions, from a previous symbols thread, in mind. Given that this post is very long and life is short, Supriyo is welcome to pretend he didn't see it ... A little bit of Barthes to set the next part up: The realists of whom I am one and of whom I was already one when I asserted that the Photograph was an image without code — even if, obviously, certain codes do inflect our reading of it — the realists do not take the photograph for a "copy" of reality, but for an emanation of past reality: a magic, not an art. To ask whether a photograph is analogical or coded is not a good means of analysis. The important thing is that the photograph possess an evidential force, and that its testimony bears not on the object but on time. From a phenomenological viewpoint, in the Photograph, t]he power of authentication exceeds the power of representation. Now on to the what Mary Price writes in The Photograph: A Strange Confined Space, starting with her quote from John Tagg: This is not the inflection of a prior (though irretrievable) reality, as Barthes would have us believe, but the production of a new and specific reality, the photograph, which becomes meaningful in certain transactions and has real effects, but which cannot refer or be referred to a pre-photographic reality as to a truth. The photograph is not a magical "emanation" but a material product of a material apparatus set to work is specific contexts, by specific forces, for more or less defined purposes. It requires, therefore, not an alchemy but a history, outside which the existential essence of photography is empty and cannot deliver what Barthes desires: the confirmation of an existence; the mark of a past presence; the repossession of his mother's body. (Emphasis added by Price.) These statements cannot be reconciled even though they are not altogether contradictory. Reconciliation would involve establishing facts, whereas facts are precisely the source of disagreement. Barthes says the photograph is a magical emanation; Tagg says it is not. Barthes says the photograph is evidence of something existing in the past; Tagg says it is evidence of something to be determined by investigation of material history and use. Tagg's argument would be perfectly understandable if only he did not insist on denying Barthes's argument. One difference between the two statements is that Barthes is subtle, poetic, and at home with both imagination and imaginative language, whereas Tagg seems afraid that if he entertains Barthes's imaginative construal of the photograph he will relinquish both contingency and specificity. If one thinks of that straight line from object through lens to photograph, with indexical correlation, that transcription, the question arises, How can Tagg say the photograph "cannot refer or be referred to a pre-photographic reality as to a truth"? Is the line not straight? Yes, the line is straight; the idea of transcription can be kept, and it will correspond to fact. Fact, in turn, to become meaningful, requires interpretation, context, and correspondence to other facts. Tagg's "reality" and Barthes's "authentication" can both refer and be referred (by means of the imagined straight line) to the pre-photographic scene. Tagg's two realities are, first, the irretrievable original scene, and second, the new and specific reality, the photograph — the first, I would say, transcribed into the second. Barthes's term, authentication, is the confirmation of meaning not in the represented scene itself, not in Tagg's new and specific reality, but in the photograph as evidence that the scene at one past time existed. [line break added] Tagg's denial that Barthes can identify the very portrait of his mother that restores the sense of her being (not, as Tagg has it, "the repossession of his mother's body") is outside the possibility of reference to truth. The truth of reference can be only to the representable world, in which objects (and the mother) can be pointed to, not to a realm of imagination, where what Barthes says is true is true because he has created and experienced that realm and conveys its use to his readers. Barthes is occupied with a passionate demand for a sign from the grave, but the search, as he well knows, takes place in his imagination ("So I make myself the measure of photographic 'knowledge' "). Tagg believes that the meanings of a photograph are revealed by the bias of interest and also that disclosure of interest is governed by the intended use of the photograph. His difference with Barthes lies in the claim for use of the photograph; either use seems to me defensible; the personal, phenomenological use by Barthes, or the institutional, materialistic use postulated by Tagg. No difference exists in the insistence on the need for interpretation; no difference exists in the belief that the photograph registers objects by means of transcription; no difference either in the belief that the objects interrupting the light existed. [line break added] Tagg places the difference in their respective definitions of the problem. "The problem is historical, not existential," he insists, and continues, "To conjure up something of what it [the problem] involves today, I suggest in the text that you ask yourself, and not just rhetorically, under what conditions would a photograph of the Loch Ness Monster (of which there are many) be acceptable? The Loch Ness monster as an example is different from the unicorn because many people do believe there is such a monster, whereas no one believes in a unicorn. No photograph would ever be acceptable as proof of the monster's existence to those convinced that no such monster exists. For those who believe the monster exists, no proof is necessary, and a photograph simply confirms belief. But this only makes problematic the use of the photograph as "evidence."