The Narrative Reading of Contemporary History of Iran: A Case Study of Azadeh Akhlaghi's Staged Photos

By Ali Sheikhmehdi and Forough Khabiri.

Published by The International Journal of Visual Design

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study is an attempt at examining a staged photography series by Azadeh Akhlaghi. The name of this series of photos is “By an Eyewitness.” To examine this series, Roland Barthes’s theories in “S/Z” and “Camera Lucida” were used. Among multiple codes in the book “S/Z,” proairetic and hermeneutic codes were utilized to comprehend the photographer’s attitude towards famous people’s death narratives and symbolic codes; cultural codes and semic codes were used for interpretations of the viewer. Later on, Barthes added an accreditation code to the codes; the codes that let the artist present his piece like a reality. In this series, two narratives are observable. At the first level, the photographer’s narrative about the death scene of these famous and national personalities and at the second level, the viewer experiences the narratives through moving from one photo to another; in this level the viewer becomes the interpreter of the photos. In other words, in the second narrative, the artist is absent and the viewer is active and present. Hence, a narrative reading of contemporary history of Iran is feasible by means of the viewer. Barthes did not restrict the text to the literature; he separated texts to writerly and readerly in this analysis. This article shows that “By an Eyewitness” series of photos is between writerly and readerly texts. On one hand, the photographer of historical photos tries to narrate the historical events as it is and leaves no room for the viewer’s interpretation. On the other hand, the viewer comes to a narrative reading as he sees the sequence of the photos, in here the viewer goes beyond the photo. By means of Barthes’s codes, “By an Eyewitness” series changes to a writerly text, a text which consciously and indiscriminately depends on the viewers’ impression and sense making.

Keywords: Staged Photography, Narrative Reading, Roland Barthes, Azadeh Akhlaghi

The International Journal of Visual Design, Volume 9, Issue 4, December, 2015, pp.1-11. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.186MB).

Dr. Ali Sheikhmehdi

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Arts and Architecture, Tarbiat Modares University (TMU), Tehran, Tehran, Iran (Islamic Republic of)

Forough Khabiri

Art Studies Student, Faculty of Arts and Architecture, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Tehran, Iran (Islamic Republic of)