Phototext and transposing emblems



The German publication Der Spiegel recently ran a photo-text series called:

Reise nach Sotschi

Matthias Schepp wrote the text and Yuri Kozyrev took the photos. Even if the content is not particularly new to someone familiar with Russia, technically it is a fascinating work of art. As you scroll down the text, the embedded feature picture moves from bottom to top, mirroring the acts of reading and scrolling. If you pause at a picture, you will also have the option of viewing other related images. For example, they started in Moscow with a picture of a winter swimming hole, but instead of just one, underneath it, you can also find about ten others to view. When they reach the next destination, Kolomna, the same thing.

The difference between this photo-text journalism and a transposing emblem, besides the former's technical superiority for the time being, is that the latter does not show or embellish what the text is explaining. Rather, the juxtaposition of similar images from various places lets a transposing emblem suggest a deeper meaning than the individual picture or directly related text can convey. Only in combination with the other images and the text can the reader begin to construct an idea of the author and photographer's essential concern.

Emblems in this form also communicate directly with the baroque past. As Marian Szyrocki writes in Die deutsche Literatur des Barock, "Die Funktion des Bildes beruht darin, daß es mehr bedeutet, als es vorstellt. Das Epigramm, genannt subscriptio, erklärt das Bild, gibt ihm die eigentliche Bedeutung." (30) And quoting Dieter Jöns' study of Gryphius's emblems, she adds: "In ihrem wesentlichen Anliegen zielt die Emblematik auf eine Durchleuchtung der Welt, deren Grundlage die christlich-mitteralterliche Lehre von der signifikativen Qualität der Dinge ist." (30) However, in all likelihood the authors of contemporary emblems do not draw on Christian doctrine as the basis for the essence of their art, although it probably shapes their worldview, even if unconsciously.

Further reading/work cited

Matthias Schepp/Yuri Kozyrev. Reise nach Sotschi
Marian Szyrocki. Die Deutsche Literatur des Barock
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