write:But on the other side it happens that photographs are considered by society as works of art presented in exhibitions or in albums ac- companied by learned commentary. And the fam

mostly private and family life
birth- place of the Freudian fetish. This recognition is ambiguous. Up to a point
it does correspond to a real distribution of social practices: people do take photo- graphs of their children
and when they want their feature film
they do go to the movies or watch TV. But on the other side
it happens that photographs are considered by society as works of art
presented in exhibitions or in albums ac- companied by learned commentary. And the family is frequently celebrated
or self-celebrated
in private
with super-8 films or other nonprofessional produc- tions
which are still cinema. Nevertheless
the kinship between film and collec- tivity
photography and privacy
remains alive and strong as a social myth
half true like all myths; it influences each of us
and most of all the stamp
the look of photography and cinema themselves. It is easy to observe – and the researches of the sociologist Pierre Bordieu
2 among others
confirm it – that photography very often primarily means souvenir
keepsake. It has replaced the portrait
thanks to the historical transition from the period when long exposure times were needed for true portraits. While the social reception of film is mainly ori- ented towards a show-business-like or imaginary referent
the real referent is felt to be dominant in photography. There is something strange in this discrepancy
as both modes of expres- sion are fundamentally indexical
in Charles Sanders Pierce’s terms. (A recent
remarkable book on photography by Philippe Dubois is devoted to the elabora- tion of this idea and its implications.)3 Pierce called indexical the process of sig- nification (semiosis) in which the signifier is bound to the referent not by a social convention ( = symbol)
not necessarily by some similarity ( = icon)
but by an actual contiguity or connection in the world: the lightning is the index of the storm. In this sense
film and photography are close to each other
both are prints of real objects
prints left on a special surface by a combination of light and chemical action. This indexicality
of course
leaves room for iconic aspects
as the chemical image often looks like the object (Pierce considered photogra- phy as an index and an icon). It leaves much room for symbolic aspects as well
such as the more or less codified patterns of treatment of the image (framing
and so forth) and of choice or organization of its contents. What is in- dexical is the mode of production itself
the principle of the taking. And at this point
after all
a film is only a series of photographs. But it is more precisely a series with supplementary components as well
so that the unfolding as such tends to become more important than the link of each image with its referent. This property is very often exploited by the narrative
the initially indexical power of the cinema turning frequently into a realist guarantee for the unreal. 2. Pierre Bordieu et al.
Un art moyen. Essai sur les usages sociaux de la photographie
Edi- tions de Minuit
1965. 3. Philippe Dubois
L’acte photographique
Paris and Brussels
Nathan and Labor
1983.This content downloaded from on Wed
08 Feb 2023 05:34:54 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms


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