[Writer, semiotician, and philosopher, b. 1932, Alessandria, Piedmont, Italy, d. 2016, Milan.]
You tell me these two were my parents, so now I know but it’s a memory that you’ve given me. I’ll remember the photo from now on, but not them.
The photograph [of Che Guevara], for a civilization now accustomed to thinking in images, was not the description of a single event... it was an argument.
If photography is to be likened to perception, this is not because the former is a “natural” process but because the latter is also coded.
We know that sensory phenomena are transcribed in the photographic emulsion in such a way that even if there is a causal link with the real phenomena, the graphic images can be considered as wholly arbitrary with respect to these phenomena.
The vicissitudes of our century have been summed up in a few exemplary photographs that have proved epoch-making: the unruly crowd pouring into the square during the “ten days that shook the world;” Robert Capa’s dying miliciano; the marines planting the flag on Iwo Jima; the Vietnamese prisoner being executed with a shot in the temple; Che Guevara’s tortured body on a plank in a barracks. Each of these images has become a myth and has condensed numerous speeches. It has surpassed the individual circumstance that produced it; it no longer speaks of that single character or of those characters, but expresses concepts.