Week 1 Readings Prompt Due Sunday 1/27 by 5pm

Reading Prompt Due Sunday 1/27 by 5pm:
Part One: Please articulate the question which motivates Barthes throughout his investigation of photography in Camera Lucida. Post your answers in a reply below.

Part Two: Please define the following terms:
The studium of a photograph:
The punctum of a photograph:

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33 Responses to Week 1 Readings Prompt Due Sunday 1/27 by 5pm

  1. Emily Schweich says:

    Part One:
    Roland Barthes declared that he sought to learn “what Photography was ‘in itself’” (Barthes 3). His desire to write about photography stemmed from his dissatisfaction with current critical approaches and his hope to reconcile the conflict between scientific and subjective views of photography. Perhaps his driving question was: How can a universal theory of photography reflect the views of the spectator and the spectrum, the object being photographed, in addition to the view of the operator or photographer?
    Barthes’ investigation of photography was also motivated by “sentimental reasons” – how can photographs capture the spirit of our loved ones? (Barthes 21). Following his mother’s death, Barthes examined old photographs, “looking for truth of the face [he] had loved” (Barthes 67). Surprisingly, he rediscovered his mother in a faded photograph of her as a five-year-old girl, standing with her brother by a conservatory, then called a Winter Garden. While old, this photograph captured the “assertion of a gentleness,” innocence, and kindness that Barthes’ mother possessed (Barthes 69). The Winter Garden Photograph reminded Barthes of the time he spent caring for her in the final days of her illness, when she assumed childlike vulnerability. The discovery of this photograph encouraged Barthes to more closely examine the themes of love and death in Photography.

    Part Two:
    Barthes identified two terms that measured spectators’ interest in photographs. He defined studium as a general interest in or average effect of a photograph, typically shaped by knowledge of culture, politics, and history. When one ascribes studium to a photograph, he or she acknowledges the photographer’s intention and can appreciate the cultural statement that the photograph might make. For example, Barthes described a photograph of an American black family, identifying the themes of respectability, family, and conformism as the studium (Barthes 43).
    Barthes then identified a second element, punctum, which breaks the studium, as “this element which rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces me” (Barthes 26). This element, sometimes a minute detail, evokes emotion in the spectator, who ascribes his or her own meaning to the punctum. In the photograph of the black family, Barthes pointed out the Mary Jane shoes that the daughter is wearing as the punctum of this photograph, for the dated fashion evoked a feeling of tenderness for him (Barthes 43).

  2. rubeish says:

    Put in the simplest of terms, Roland Barthes wanted to discover exactly what photography is. Barthes states that he “wanted to learn at all costs what Photography was ‘in itself’, by what essential feature it was to be distinguished from the community of images” (3). In other words, he not only sought the definition of photography’s essence; he also sought what it is that makes photography different from other types of image-based media, such as film or portraiture. He goes on in more depth a while later, stating that wanted to look at photography “not as a question (a theme), but as a wound” (21). Barthes saw photography as a statement of fact, perhaps a conversation starter, but not as a question and certainly not as an answer. In sum, Barthes wanted to understand the nature of photography, what it contributes to society, and what makes a certain photograph interesting.
    Barthes was also fascinated by the concepts of what he called the “studium” and the “punctum”. He defined the “studium” of a photograph is the basic, average photograph, which he make like or dislike, be attracted to or repulsed by, but one which has no strong emotional hold over him one way or another. Barthes describes the “studium” as a photograph with “no duality, no indirection, no disturbance” (41). He then goes on to describe what it is that gives a photograph duality or indirection or disturbance – the “punctum”. Barthes explains that the “punctum” is the detail of the photograph, the “prick”, that grabs the watcher’s attention, that makes him or her have an intense emotional reactions to the photograph, that makes him or her love a photograph. One of Barthes’ main concerns throughout Camera Lucida is the relationship between photography and love, and Barthes helps describe that relationship by using the word “punctum” to describe the inciter of that love.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      I am not sure that “love” plays as much of a role as “death” in his vision of photography. Love seems like a throwaway comment for him.

  3. Elana says:

    Part I: Throughout his book, Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes tries to figure out what Photography is. He wants to understand the essence of Photography apart from the object it represents (Barthes 5). He delves deeply into the “evidence of Photography”, the thing that distinguishes one image from another, and concludes that Photography is an art with many layers that symbolizes more than a particular instance (Barthes 60). Photography represents feeling and time and the core of its subject. Barthes makes this conclusion through analyzing the Winter Garden Photograph of his mother as a child. He uses the photo as a guide for his investigation because it “would tell him that thread which drew [him] to Photography” and thus what photography ultimately is in “relation to..love and death” (Barthes 73).

    Part II: The studium of a photograph is the connotation or theme of the photo. It is the application of the photograph to a thing or place. For instance, Koen Wessing’s photo, Nicaragua (1979), has a studium of rebellion, war, Nicaragua, etc. The studium leads one to say that they either like or do not like the photo- it does not lead them to a strong emotion. This is because the studium allows one to understand the photo and thus the intentions of the operator (Barthes 22-28).

    The punctum of a photograph is the “prick” that punctuates the studium and disturbs or bothers the spectator. It is a detail (or sometimes even the time the photo was taken) that does not seem to fit in place; it is out of the ordinary. For example, the punctum in Koen Wessing’s photo, Nicaragua (1979), is the nuns walking in the background. The nuns seem to be out of place in that war zone. The punctum of a photo is the detail that gives the spectator emotion of love or hate because it pokes at the spectator and makes him think (Barthes 22,27).

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      Does it symbolize more than a particular instance, or less? For example, doesn’t it capture the fleeting, the nearly invisible? And if one argues that the punctum is at the core of the endeavor, wouldn’t you say that since it is so dependent on a personal “wound” or “prick” that the photography can’t represent anything general at all?

  4. knkern94 says:

    Barthes’ investigation of photography is driven by his yearning desire to find a concise definition for this contemporary form of art. Photography provides a certain struggle in its understanding because it can have both a simplistic and complex purpose. Barthes explains that photography in itself is comprised of multiple aspects, or “essences”, both physical and regional (21). He stresses that both must be kept in mind because the emotional connection with the art is only made possible by its scientific background. Barthes sees this as an obstacle, however, because it makes the definiton process for photography ever more difficult when more components must be recognized. I took this process to be sort of an emotional one for Barthes as he continually mentioned his relationship with his mother and the photographs he found of her. Perhaps, there was a deeper meaning to finding this defintion of photography that would help fill a missing definition in his own life with the recent passing of his mother.
    Barthes also explores the two different ways that a photograph can be interpreted. When it comes to the “studium” and the “punctum”, these are applied specifically to the emotions and motivations held by the spectator of a photograph, not the operator/photographer. The studium are all the normal things you would first notice about photograph. Without diving in too deep with philosophical or artisitc analysis, a person can appreciate the basis of the piece of art. There is no true emotion attached nor is there a specific connection felt. It’s the picture you saw flipping through a magazine but didn’t care enough to stop and stare at it for long. The punctum of a photograph really gets into the nitty gritty pathos photographs can evoke, such as the connection Barthes feels with his Winter Garden photo. He literally defines punctum as a sting or hole cut within someone (27). This aspect of a photograph is where a connection is made. That is what solidifies photography as art, because if it can evoke a human emotion from someone than the artist, or photographer in this case, has accomplished his goal.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      According to Barthes, the punctum can never be inspired by the artist’s desire because it has to be totally spectator based.

  5. shjones says:

    Barthes is necessarily vague from the beginning on what question his discourse hopes to answer. This omittance is essential to the style, as the rest of the book progresses through Barthes’ empirical examination of photography. At the beginning, he simply gives that he desires to find “what photography was ‘in itself’” and “by what essential feature it was to be distinguished from the community of images” (Barthes 3). It would seem from this that Barthes’ task is simply to define photography as it stands within the field of visual communication. As he goes on though, it becomes clear that there is something more. His search, although it may incorporate what he proposes, is for the truth behind the somehow magical feeling produced by a photograph that is not created by other visual mediums. This stirring of the human emotion is what Barthes seeks to reveal. As he puts this interaction himself, “The photograph itself is in no way animated… but it animates me: this is what creates every adventure” (Barthes 20). To this end, Barthes comes up with two terms that help explain why only certain photographs will help him find his answer. The “studium”, as he defines it, is the cultural interaction and analysis of the person looking at the photo. For example, one is moved by a photo of war because of cultural teachings and feelings towards such actions. The “punctum”, on the other hand is a certain detail in a picture that draws his attention to it, and “pricks” him. It is a delight or pain, and while he may be interested in other photographs through studium, it is those poignant ones with punctum that hold the truth for him. He gives as an example of a picture of Nicaragua during a rebellion, taken by Koen Wessing. He comments on the contrast between the nuns and soldiers in the picture and how they “did not belong to the same world”. This is one of his more obvious examples of the punctum, but it serves to illustrate the oddities that make him stop and think about a photograph. In the end, primarily through a photograph of his mother that provided punctum, he gives two reasons behind that magical feeling of certain photographs. The first is the ability of the photograph to express both the superficial physical features of a person and occasionally, to express the identity and personality of the person behind these features. His other reason is that photographs play with the viewer’s perception of time. When looking at a picture, the viewer must reconcile the facts that the subject existed in one state and in a different one now. These two rules help explain the punctum that is the real truth he was searching for in his quest to find out what “photography was in itself”.

  6. Part I:
    Roland Barthes is preoccupied with what makes photography unique, what separates Photography from any other medium or perhaps art. This question is quite a challenge for Barthes as it leads him on a quest for an epistemological meaning of photography. The abstract nature of images in Barthes mind “We might say that Photography is unclassifiable” (4) thus forces him to take an almost scientific approach at defining the essence that constitutes Photography.
    In his search for this knowledge, Barthes realizes the question is far removed from a search for a definition. The essence of a Photograph becomes more about inspecting its’ functions and intricacies than looking for a singular aspect that differentiates the Photograph. For example, the question leads him to define the implications of the role of the observer, progenitor and subject of the Photograph. Barthes considers the practical application of these different roles in the creation of a Photograph as a means of reaching his answer.
    Barthes’ ultimately is troubled in his search for an answer because he cannot balance the reductionist quality of his attempted definitions without also considering the ungraspable, chaotic nature of the Photograph “the Photograph crushes all other images by its tyranny” (118). Thus, he leaves his work in Camera Lucida with a rephrasing of the question, although this doesn’t mean he didn’t make great leaps in his attempt to answer it, as a matter of differentiating the popular aesthetic and thematic appeal of the Photograph versus its intractable allure.

    Part II:
    The studium of a Photograph is its intended, apparent appeal. A Photograph in itself has a commissioned function, this one possibly being historical, message oriented, informative or pleasure oriented. This is the studium, where the observer can inspect a Photograph and understand its presentation and fabrication, the means it hopes to reach.
    The punctium of a Photograph is the feature that can cause surprising, unexpected and even jolting effects. The punctium revolves around what the Photograph can capture from the observer that is abrasive in nature. The punctium is purely subjective and unquantifiable, a detail that on a personal level makes the Photograph more than an image with a function. The punctium is the noticeable aspects of a Photograph that, through the observer’s curiosity or unique experience, animates it past its fixed physical reality and into an object of unique beauty.

  7. joezim1994 says:

    Barthes wants to work at defining something that he knows is indefinable. I think what he is really doing is simply exploring through discourse a subject that deeply interests him. He wants to know where photography’s power to fascinate comes from and perhaps to contemplate its role in art, life, death, history, and the modern world while he’s at it. By his own admittance language is limited (Barthes 97)—he often states that he cannot describe in words the essence of a photograph—but this doesn’t stop him from theorizing about the art. Ultimately, he posits that photography is an art that speaks for itself; it is “the exorbitant thing,” (Barthes 91) an art form unlike any other in its apparent realness, an art that derives its impact not only from ethnographic or aesthetic interests, but also from what each image suggests about moments in time and the passing of time itself. Photographs have a unique ability to transcend time: they capture a moment and preserve it—often imperfectly so, but not always.

    This reflected moment can have meaning in different ways, according to Barthes. One way is the studium, the general idea or subject of a photograph: it is what allows one to “participate in the faces, the gestures, the setting, the action” (Barthes 26), what one immediately sees and is drawn to in a picture. Barthes’s other artistic appeal is the punctum, that detail which isn’t immediately manifest but which, upon its discovery, leads to a whole new understanding of the photograph. “An accident” (Barthes 27), the punctum is not intentional by the photographer nor by the spectator. None can discover it, it is “already there” (Barthes 55) in the totally novel way that photographs can capture a world in a moment, not just the scene but an endlessly variant life behind it. Barthes articulates the role and potential of an art form that is, really, best discovered by simply looking at it.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      I think he thinks it is definable. I think he just takes on on a journey through his own deliberations over it.

  8. Ross Fasman says:

    Part I:
    Although there are multiple motifs throughout Camera Lucida, the question which motivates Barthes throughout his investigation of photography is “…and if another photograph interests me powerfully, I should like to know what there is in it that sets me off.” Barthes continues to call this the photograph’s “adventure” or the “attraction (between) certain photographs entered upon me.” He concludes that Photography is one that “reaches me; it animates me, and I animate it…The photograph itself is in no way animated, but it animates me: this is what creates every adventure.” (Barthes 19) To me, this is the quintessential investigation of photography because it constitutes a question of existence. It epitomizes the relationship between, as Emily provided, “views of the spectator and the spectrum, the object being photographed, in addition to the view of the operator or photographer”. In other words, the investigation of Photography is whether the image and its subsequent emotional solicitations exist within the individual, the picture, or both. It is through this investigation that motivates Barthes to discovery the true nature of Photography.

    Part II (but also is a continuation of Part I):
    As introduced, the central motif of “Camera Lucida” is the investigation of the “adventure” or the “attraction (between) certain photographs entered upon me.” Barthes uses two Latin words to help answer and accentuate the investigation: stadium and punctum.
    The stadium is the general disposition, where one can “participate in the figures, the faces, the gestures, the settings, the actions” of the photograph. (Barthes 26) In other words, it is the presentation “of unconcerned desire, of various interest, of inconsequential taste” that which elicits study of the photograph.(Barthes 27) The punctum is “that accident which pricks (but also bruises me, is poignant to me.” (Barthes 26) In other words, the punctum is the emotional solicitation from the stadium of the photograph.
    Thus stadium and punctum are important words for Barthes’ investigation of Photography, because stadium and punctum allow for the interplay between the photograph itself, the one who took it (Operator), and the one who is looking at it (Spectator). The stadium and punctum are in fact the occurring “adventure” between the photo and the individual.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      Studium, not stadium. But you have hit the nail on the head with your disdussion of Barthes’ primary concern residing in questions of agency. Where does the power of the photograph lie?

  9. Barthes is motivated primarily by his passion for photography and the dissonance he feels between his own strong feelings for the art and the studies and writings conducted by other scholars of photography. He wanted to be able to explain the art form in order to better understand and appreciate it, thus justifying his love of it. For, he expressed doubts, saying he “wasn’t sure that Photography existed, that it had a “genius” of its own” (Barthes 3). Barthes felt the need to find the meaning in photography that separated it from mere images, such as cinema. In studying the nature of photography, Barthes seeks an explanation for its visual power and ability to evoke such strong emotion.
    According to Barthes, the studium of a photograph is the academic side of the photograph that may be studied, such as the staging, lighting, subject, and choices specifically made by the photographer, or the operator. It involves very little emotion, beyond a simple like or dislike. The punctum of the photograph is what holds more importance for Barthes. It is the undefinable aspect of the photograph that gives it meaning and makes it significant. It is often a minute detail of the photograph. The punctum varies by person, because it is a personal addition, and its effect cannot be rationally explained. In the photograph Family Portrait by Van der Zee, for Barthes the punctum is the strapped pumps and gold necklace. Although the punctum can provoke painful feelings, it is this aspect which incites Barthes loves for both individual photographs as well as photography as a whole.

  10. Part One:
    For much of this book, Barthes is striving to find true reality in photographs. He constantly speaks of how he often finds trouble in finding interest in photos because they do not strike him as realistic and tangible enough. One of the best examples of this is when he is looking through photographs of his mother shortly after she passed away. As Barthes looked from photo to photo of his mother, he realized that although he “would have recognized her among thousands of women,” he “did not ‘find’ her” (Barthes, 66). Many times when looking through photographs of ones self or a close relative, they do not remember where or when it was taken, but they never give another thought to it. The reality of a photo is never explored because the nature of a photo is to be a replica of an actual event. When discussing Barthes’ ideas on reality, it is important to note the title of this piece, Camera Lucida. A camera lucida is a device used in the 1800’s to aid artists in recreating scenes. It allows the artist to see the scene he is painting or drawing at the same time as the piece of art. This made it easier for the artist to make a scene or a picture of a person as realistic as possible. By using this as a title, Barthes is cluing us in on his mission to find photos that truly spark the memories of time and weed out the truth in photography.
    When Barthes finally finds a photograph of his mother that speaks to him, it is actually a photo of her as a child, a time in her life that he we not present for. He speaks of how in this photo he saw all of her attributes that had “maintained all her life” (Barthes, 69). Perhaps this demonstrates the tendency people have to be intrigued and moved by photographs that have little to no connection to a time in their life. In Barthes case, he was able to find the truth of his mothers life that he had been looking for after her death, developed in a photograph from much before his own time.

    Part Two:
    The best way to understand the studium of a photograph is to think of it as the initial essence of a photograph. The studium is what you see at first glance. Barthes says that the studium of a photo is often what speaks to him, like love at first sight.

    The punctum of a photograph is the small detail that “disturbs the studium” (Barthes, 27). Like a band aid on a finger or a girls strappy shoes, it takes your attention away from the essence or original message. Though Barthes makes it out to be a more negative element of a photograph, the punctum can also be something that creates interest and makes one love a photo.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      Yes — I have often thought of the fact that the photograph that captures the essence of his mother for him is a photograph of his mother in her youth when he could not have known her, or barely even recognize her. The element of time becomes important when we consider that.

  11. The main narrative that seems to arise throughout “Camera Lucida” is Barthes wanting to continually discover what photography is, and how it affects the challenges of story telling and the human grasp of this art form (Barthes 20). Barthes simply wants to know what exactly photography hopes to accomplish within the human narrative, why it captures the essence of humanity, and why it does not when put into context with the theory of life. Barthes spends much of the narrative coming to terms with the concept of photography. How that moment is both the present and past at the same time; how that moment is timeless yet fleeting in its inability to be duplicated. He sought the essence of photography, thus coming to terms with the challenges that this art form posed on his ability to grasp the art form (Barthes 78-79). How photography is supposed to be the most basic form of human life, yet completely fails to grasp the humanity within human life through its inability to show movement and the necessary vitality of the human condition. So in such a way, photography–according to Barthes–can only be a form of death. “however ‘lifelike’ we strive to make it…Photography is a kind of primitive theater… beneath which we see the dead” (Barthes 31-32).

    According to Barthes, the studium of a photograph is the ambiance of photography that generally draws the audience in (Barthes 26). It is simply the challenge of causing Barthes to like the photograph, with little emotional impact (Barthes 27). In comparison, the punctum is an element or detail within that photograph that disrupts the general feeling of the studium with a feeling of shock or distress (Barthes 27). The punctum is the emotional aspect that interests and allows for Barthes to become enamored with a photograph. The punctum allows the audience to think about the photograph, its beauty and its quirkiness, that then allows for the observer to question the context and history behind the photograph. The observer is no longer a passive gazer, he/she is now a participant within that moment of time–questioning the scene and questioning the time around it. This is seen through the punctums ability to be “ill-bred”, thus allowing for the punctum to continually disrupt the emotional chords of the observer (Barthes 43). In such a way, punctum tends to become more important and devastating than the studium.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      Along the lines of your earlier analysis, perhaps the studium and the punctum refer to different levels of storytelling within the photograph.

  12. megmck12 says:

    Part 1:
    In his “Camera Lucida”, Roland Barthes investigates the definition of photography from an “ontological” perspective—regarding the nature of being (Barthes 3). What is photography? How does photography, as an art form of a technology, separate itself from a mere “community of images”? Barthes attempts to define photography, to classify it. For Barthes, photography’s original classifications stem from previous forms of representations: words like “realism” and “portraits” evoke something reminiscent of traditional painting (4). In fact, Barthes holds that photography has been consistently tormented “by the ghost of painting” (30). Barthes sees a photograph as ultimately a “look”, a “that”, a “see”, and notes profoundly that photography transforms subjects into objects, creating a stark duplicity in the attempt to define photography (5, 11). Barthes described the Photograph as “pure contingency”—a representation of something lacking complete certainty, resulting in the vitality of the details and knowledge a photograph holds (28). To me, the most striking definition of photography was Barthes’ mention of the Latin words for photograph: an image revealed, extracted, mounted, and expressed by the action of light (81). To this, Barthes added the rich symbol of an image immortalized, and therefore, very much alive (81). In conclusion, the function and meaning of the Photograph remains duplicitious: “mad or tame”, “perfect illusions” or “intractable reality” (119).
    Part 2:
    The studium and the punctum are the words Barthes ascribes to the two distinct elements of a photograph that are responsible for his interest in it. Barthes defines the studium as a measure of the extent to which photography interests its viewer as impacted by the viewer’s personal knowledge and culture (25.) The punctum, on the other hand, pierces through the studium, creating a “mark made by a pointed instrument” that remains with the viewer, fascinates them, and attaches itself to them (26). The punctum very often is a detail both minor and striking, such as Barthes’ tender reaction to a girl’s outdated shoes in a portrait of a respectable black family. From this, we can see obviously that the studium and punctum vary from viewer to viewer (43). In short, the difference between the studium and the punctum is the difference between liking and loving a photograph (27).

  13. alangdon93 says:

    Part I:
    The research question Barthes poses is what is Photography in itself? Barthes is searching for the unique quality of photography separating it from paintings or videos. During the first half of the of Barthes’ work, he tries to see the photograph in itself, not a familiar story it evokes, but the significance of the photograph in and of itself. Although a “realist” medium, photography in many senses lacks reality. The photograph produced is created by what the photographer sees in the lens. The person in the picture is only a representation of the real person who has posed and is putting on a new essence of being. In the first of the book I believe that Barthes is looking for the realness of the photograph. This hypothesis accounts for his fascination with the details of the photograph that are not planned statements. The second half of Camera Lucida focuses on finding the “nature” of photography differing from a painting or a video (60). A painting does not have the capability of capturing a very real or unplanned moment in time that will never return again. Photography does. Additionally, the differentiating factor between photography and cinema is that the cinema is constantly going forward, the scene is not fixed. A photograph on the other hand, holds all it can hold and only that one frame. That one frame will never change, will never happen again. In short, the frame dies. The death of the photograph is one of Barthes’ answers to what makes a photograph unique. Furthermore, time is the biggest player in what differentiates a photograph from the other images in our world. Photography captures a moment. This representation of a moment can be viewed with different perspectives, at different times. The photograph’s story may be changing with perspectives, but the moment, captured once and now gone forever, remains the same.

    Part II:

    Studium: “the figures, the faces, the gestures, the settings, (and) the actions,” that the photograph is supposed to represent and portray. The photographer’s intentions, the reason the photographer takes and publishes a photograph.

    Punctum: an unexpected detail that often takes one off guard, sometimes described as “wounding” the beholder once seen. After looking at a photograph, the punctum might be the thing one remembers long after one has seen the photograph. The punctum is an unexpected and wounding detail that perhaps was not intended by the photographer immediately, but cause an effect on the beholder nonetheless.

  14. Camera Lucida is the personal journey of Roland Barthes’ search for the true meaning of the Photograph. In the wake of his mother’s death, he desperately wants to determine what draws people to certain photographs and how they portray past realities when compared to other artistic media. In so doing, he must better understand the complex relationship between the operator, the spectator, and the referent.
    Barthes’ investigation tries to take an objective and scientific approach toward something that is visual and emotional. He is quick to remind his audience that the first photographers were not painters but chemists. He is torn, however, as he finds himself personally invested in certain photographs, namely one of his late mother as a child. Barthes realizes that for the spectator, there is no escaping the pathos or the “affect” when it comes to photography and this emotional connection is an “umbilical cord” between the referent and the spectator (81).
    This umbilical cord can better be understood in light of two terms Barthes uses throughout the book; “stadium” and “punctum.” Studium comes from a general human interest in photographs. This can occur for commercial, historical, or personal reasons, but lacks complexity and can be boiled down to statements of “I like” or “I don’t like” (27). Punctum, however, comes from the photograph and is deeper and more memorable. It is the part of a photograph that leaves an impression on the spectator and is realized in retrospect.
    This creates a disjoint in the spectator, as he grapples with the idea that something “is not there…but indeed it has been” (115). This relationship between the realities of the past and the present is created as the operator “reproduces to infinity what has only occurred once” (4) but ultimately lets the viewer fit himself into the scheme of human history.

  15. Esra Yagoub says:

    Part I
    Roland Barthes wrote out Camera Lucida as part of his investigation of photography. He wanted to know what “photography” meant standing alone. To answer that there were many other question that Barthes believed needed to be answered first. He wanted to know the difference between photography and the collection of images often associated with it (Barthes 3). He also wanted to know what makes photography profound: what elements allow it to stand alone as its own art form. Barthes also wanted to know what a single photograph was intended to capture, what it stood for and what it represented. Overall, he wanted to understand the nature of photography and to do see he needed to understand the perspectives of the “spectator” and the “operator.”
    In the second half of his book his motivation was to “find” (not merely recognize her in an image, but rather understand her) his mother by looking at old photos.
    Part II
    In his exploitation of photography Barthes defines the “studium” as the main theme the operator intended to capture for the spectator. The stadium either catches the spectators eye or doesn’t. Barthes describes it as something that happens at the like/don’t like level (Barthes 27). The punctum resonates with the spectator and truly captures their attention. It is often a small detail that could be overlooked by one viewer but more meaningful to the next., like the necklaces that Bathes notices in the James Van der Zee family portrait. The punctum also evokes a much more emotional reaction form the viewer. Ultimately the studium and the puctum are the two separate layers of a photograph.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      But does every photograph have a punctum for everyone? For that matter, does every photograph have a punctum at all?

  16. shulamitshroder says:

    Part One
    As he states at the beginning of Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes aimed to discover for himself exactly what made photography special – and whether or not there is even a separate place for photography amidst the different ways of conveying images. To do this, he describes the characteristics of different photos in order to find their commonalities and thus understand the prototypical Photograph. In the course of the book, he comes to many different conclusions on the nature of photography. He realizes that a photograph records only that the image portrayed within it has occurred sometime in the past and is now gone. Thus he focuses on the tension between the permanent (the piece of film or paper) and the temporary (the action in the picture). He also explores the inherent relationship he sees between photography and death. He comes to the conclusion that photography is essentially a way of both putting off death and of creating momentary deaths in the lives of the people photographed. He never truly answers his own questions.

    Part Two
    The studium of a photograph is the scene that it portrays – the people, objects, and scenery in the picture that first interest the viewer.
    The punctum of a photograph is the detail that pops out at the spectator and holds his or her attention, causing him or her to wonder more about the people in the picture.

  17. Throughout his book, Roland Barthes seeks to define photography, and discover what makes a photograph different from any other image. He says “I wanted to learn at all costs what Photography was ‘in itself,’ by what essential feature it was to be distinguished from the community of images” (Barthes 3). Barthes reflects on how the art of photography emerged. He notes how although the camera obscura was essential to the rise of the art, it was the chemical discovery that truly made photography possible. The light sensitivity of silver halogen molecules is what allows a real life scene to be captured. This is what separates photography from other images such as paintings. As Barthes explains, the noeme, or essence, of photography is “that-has-been,” meaning that the image we see in a photograph was real and occurred at the exact time that the photograph was taken. This separates photography from paintings and other forms of art because what is expressed in a painting did not necessarily exist in that exact form. Barthes actually opens his book with a realization of this fact. When he looks at a photograph of Napoleon’s younger brother, he is amazed that he is “looking at eyes that looked at the emperor” (Barthes 3). However, Barthes still understands that photographs are not the real thing. When looking through his mother’s photographs after she passed away, he saw his mother in the pictures, but he says they do not represent his mother as she truly was. This relates back to his theory of studium and punctum. The studium of a photograph are the subjects in the image: the people, the idea, the scene, what the image represents. On the other hand, the punctum of a photograph is the small detail that the Spectator, as Barthes puts it, notices that sparks an interest to the viewer. It is the prick that brings the photo to life and gives it meaning. The punctum could be different to anyone, or depending on the Spectator, there may not be a punctum at all. Barthes found a picture of his mother as a child, and although this was the image that he felt truly represented his mother, he did not show the photograph in the book because it would not have the same punctum that it did for him. I think the definition of photography that Barthes was searching for lies in the studium and punctum because they define the physical properties of a photograph, but also the quality that adds the “prick” of reality.

  18. Part One: Roland Barthes wants to understand and discover what the art form of photography actually is. Barthes is quite determined in answering this question in which he does not feel content with the current explanations and evidence from other sources, “I wanted to learn at all costs what Photography was ‘in itself’… Such a desire really meant that beyond the evidence provided by technology and usage… (Barthes 3).” Barthes yearned for an understanding of the essence of photography and often states how photography can be paradoxical in which it has very simplistic element while also carrying complicated or unknown features in which photographs cannot have a symbolic meaning. For instance, Barthes claims that, “Since every photograph is contingent (thereby outside of meaning), photography cannot signify (aim at a generality) except by assuming a mask (Barthes 34).” Barthes also wanted to explore how certain photographs effects the viewer of the photograph and how the object in the photograph is being perceived. Barthes mentions the passing of his mother and how the photograph, Winter Garden, really brought back sentimental memories and feeling about his mother, “For once, photography gave me a sentiment as certain as remembrance (Barthes 70).” All in all, Barthes is trying to gain a complete understanding of what photography is in its existence, what is its purpose, and how it effects its environment.
    Part Two: Roland Barthes explores two concepts of photography, Studium and Punctum. A Punctum of a photograph is the “detail” of the pictures that can change the whole perspective of what the viewer may think about the picture. It is something that stands out and is emphasized, as a result, the viewer’s eyes are drawn to it, possibly looking at is with a different perspective. “Very often, the Punctum is a ‘detail,’ ie., a partial object (Barthes 42-43).” Barnes also describes the Punctum as a, “sting, speck, cut, little hole… the accident which pricks me (Barthes 27).” The Studium is the general, average, or vague opinion or perspective of a photo that can be based off of culture or history; what one thinks of a photo without being “pricked.
    These two concepts can be found in any picture. For example, the photograph of the James Van Der Zee: Family Portrait has a Punctum in which it is the strapped pumps on Mary Jane, which evoked a feeling a sympathy and tenderness in Barthes. The Studium in the same family portrait is described as, from a cultural stand point: respectable, conformist, Sunday best, and an effort of social advancement. Barthes describes the Studium to be very clear to him in the photograph (Barthes 43).

  19. maxinesrich says:

    In his work “Camera Lucida”, Barthes seeks to define photography, as separate from the countless other images within society, such as cinema. He denotes a special characteristic, apparent not only in that he outwardly expresses his belief that there is one, but also in that he capitalizes the word “photography,” as if it were something animate. This thing that makes photography animate is what drives his discussion within “Camera Lucida.” Barthes feels that the photograph is, in a way, invisible, as all that the spectator notes is the object in its frame, but it has an emotional hold on him, and he is determined to discover what that emotional hold is.

    Within this quest for definition, Barthes discovers the need to discover more terms, rounding out different aspects of photography as to make it multi-dimensional, which is how Barthes sees it. Barthes defines the cultural implications as the studium, meaning, that which can be named and defined. It is a tangible concept to the viewer, being an item or a person. The other side of photography, as Barthes sees it, belongs to punctum. This is the emotional, indefinable side, which so baffles Barthes. Barthes sees photography as wounding in a way, it contains an emotional appeal that is outside the realm of language and description. The punctum varies, as it is different to each viewer as he or she sees it.

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