Reflection or is this contemplating. A very clarifying thought and differentiation by Hurn, between Picture story and essay, where the latter is apparent a dissertation on a personal view, open to interpretation and control over the viewer’s interpreted narrative; where the story is a much more directive, a more closed-form of telling. The course reader (Boothroyd, 2019) falls slightly back into instantly, renaming the picture essay into a picture story. Nevertheless, it is a useful thought on the picture essay’s position in the viewers’ mind and self-determination on the narrative.

but there is one place where this multiplicity is collected , united , and this place is not the author , as we have hitherto said it was , but the reader : the reader is the very space in which are inscribed , without any being lost , all the citations a writing consists of ; the unity of a text is not in its origin , it is in its destination (Barthes, 1977)

Analogue to literature, or better, writing, makes the photo essay or story, an even looser narrative method then the written one. To lead the viewer alongside a linear route of images, enhance the individual photos and the narrative strength or better, the imagination’s power towards a narrative.

This idea of facilitating a narrative over narrating a defined story is developed further in the postmodern thoughts on narration.  In literature this means a more prominent role for the reader, more involvement, an active part, sometimes resulting in inaccessible or non-engaging materials; however,  a more active approach is believed by Barthes, to result in a more enriched experience.

..the birth of the reader must be ransomed by the death of the Author(Barthes, 1977)

The closing line in the coursebook around this subject is intriguing. It suggests a logical consequence of decreased acceptance of the idea of Death of the Author, or Death of the Death of an Author, that technique does matter or at least, the technique is not very obvious when the artist too easily involves the viewer in free interpretation and reduces the author (kill the author). I understand that “low accessibility” can be confused with a lack of technique, but the opposite is just as true. If the artist/author is not understood, it is still the artist’s work and decision. It may be less commercially viable, but this slides into the realm of ‘arts effectiveness’ and its valuation. Does technique (is this craftmanship?) indicate higher acceptance, and is this an indicator of the artistic level or just a spin-off from marketing principles? Isn’t it more complicated to produce art outside or in the absence of one’s self? Isn’t it easier to create from one’s own perspective and awareness than to let go or avoid? The absence of the author implicates no less use of technique: “Succeeding the Author, the scriptor no longer bears within him passions, humours, feelings, impressions, but rather this immense dictionary from which he draws a writing that can know no halt: life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred. “(Barthes, 1977) so possibly Barthes foresaw the critique.



Barthes, R. (1977) Image, Music, Text. Fontana Press. At:

Boothroyd, S. (2019) Photography 1 Context and Narrative. Directed by Boothroyd, S. (s.l.): Open College of the Arts – Michael Young Arts Centre.