Photo Collage Paola Rigamonti

Photographs and Rhetoric

Despite being born as a discipline specifically focused on the language, both in its oral and written forms, rhetoric has been applied to the domain of images. Although it can be a very valuable instrument for understanding the semantics of any photograph, its use in the constructing of images varies according to the domain considered.

Rhetoric is defined as ‘the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques’ (Oxford Dictionary). It is a vast and old discipline to explore, yet what is relevant here is to understand how this eminently linguistic field of study ended up expanding its vistas to the visual world. Much of the merit of this leap is owed to Roland Barthes.