In Camera Lucida Roland Barthesemerges himself on a trip full of discoveries, where he contradicts his wordsafter a few pages, where he starts to talk about death to ended up talkingabout love and attachment, and he discovers that photographs are more than anobject, and photography more than an art. At the beginning of the book,Barthes is only interested in the technical and superficial facts of thephotography and photographs, for example he describes photographs as an objectof three parts: Operator, thephotographer, Spectator, the viewers,and Spectrum, what is photographed.He mentioned his interests as well in how the subject to be photographedchanges his/her behaviour when is posing in front of the camera, how thesubjects want to be represented and how they would like to be seen by the restof the world. Barthes constantly comparesphotography with death because the moment that it is represented in the picturewon’t happen again, I could be the same subjects, same scenery, same clothes,but once the picture is taken, it belongs to the past, it is dead.At the same time as Barthes wasstudying photography, photographs, and what was interesting for him when helooks at a photographs, he concludedthat photographs are divided in two element, the Studium and the Punctum. Studium Barthes describes the studium assomething that every photograph has and it depends on every person because thestudium is the “I like/I don’t”, but as well “It is what we might call thetheme or the subject of the picture, what the photographer is trying to say,but it is also has to do with ideas and general culture” (Batchen, 2009, p.
48).In other words, the studium is whatthe photographer wants to show us, what he/she wants to communicate, and theviewer has to capture and understand that idea even if he/she doesnt agree withit. We could say as well that the Spectatoror viewer is one of the mains parts of the studium, because depending of his/her cultural level, education,country, knowledge, a person can like or don’t like a photograph, it is not thesame for us to see a picture of a little boat full of refugees in the middle ofthe sea knowing the political and social situation, than if some african womenfrom a tribe see the same picture, because she wouldn’t know what it is about,and probably she wouldnt understand anything about the picture, it has nomeaning for her.
The studium, as Imentioned before not only is a language between photographer and viewer, andits not only about like or don’t like, thestudium also is about to inform, to represent, to provokesurprise, to give meaning. Punctum During the Camera Lucida book, Barthes changes his mind about what the punctum is, and what it represents, atfirst he recognizes the punctum assomething that takes his attention in a picture, but after the death of hismum, he changed and describes the punctum as time. Punctumas prick Barthes describes the punctum as something that pricks you,the visual detail that grabs our attention, but as well as something touchingand beyond the photographer’s control. Knowing this description that he givesus about the punctum, I have mixedfeelings, in one hand, I understand that when you are looking at pictures,there are details that grabs your attention to them, maybe because they createcertain feelings on you, or maybe because they look like it doesn’t belong tothe picture, so you can say the object, or the part that attracts you, it isthe punctum, but Barthes mention thatone of the main differences between studiumand punctum is that the punctum is not in all the images. We canagree that the most of the images that we visualise don’t cause any interest onus, they are just images, looking for example at a landscape photograph wherethere is not a specific object taking our attention we just pass to the nextimage without thinking about it, and we can notice this more especiallynowadays with the amount of images we can have access on our phones, it isreally rare that you stop for more than a second to look at an image, so evenif they have a theme, a studium,there is not punctum, they don’tprick you to spend more time looking at them, there is nothing that grabs yourattention to it.In the other hand, he describes thepunctum as something that thephotographer can not control, and if it is set there by the photographer thenthere is not punctum, and he gives ussome examples of punctum, in thispicture the child’s bad teeth is the punctum according to Barthes. William Klein: Little Italy.
NewYork,1954 It makes me think about punctumhappening only in street photography or photographing events where thephotographer does not have any control in the situation, and only he/shephotographed what it is in front of him/her, something that is happening atthat moment, quick and in sort of way unorganized. But Barthes decided to finda photograph taken in the studio which has punctum, for him the belt of thewoman on the right is the punctum in this picture, so it can be in any pictureindependently of where it has been taken, if it is in a studio with everythingset up, or on the street, if the subjects are positioned or if they just stopfor a second. James Van Der Zee, FamilyPortrait.1926 I think what Barthes didn’t mentionabout the punctum is that the punctum is a personal choice, becausenot everybody is attracted to the same details, and even if he is talking aboutone punctum in a singular way, Iwonder if there is the possibility of finding two punctums in the same image. Punctum as time After his mother passed away, hestarted to write the second part of CameraLucida, where he started to talk about photography with melancholy andbitterness, constantly connecting photography with dead and how what it hasbeen photographed is a proof that a person, or a situation was there at thatmoment, but as well a moment that is gone, and a person that might be dead bythe time you are looking at the photograph, this is why Barthes says thatphotography doesn’t make us to remember the past, photography is the testimonyof what has been, what has existed at certain time, and it is so pessimistichis vision at this stage that he called photographers “agents of death”. One day looking at photographswhere his mother was in, he explored the two elements of a picture was made of,the studium and the punctum and he realize that there was anew punctum, the “that has been”, the Time, dividing this time into: the timehe is looking at the image, the time of Jesus and the time when the photographswas taken.
He left behind the idea of something that pricks you, somethingvisible in the picture to go more deep into time, into where the subject of theimage is, or what is going to happen to that subject after that picture wastaken. Barthes started to think about feelings in photographs, and reactionsbelong like or not like, “the punctum may be it has a bodily and perceptiveaffect (love,compassion, enthusiasm, desire) on the spectator. It not only hasthe power to expand and contract time but the photograph has the ability tothink free of the spectator” (Emerling, 2012, p.188). This punctum is soprivate that it doesn’t need to be in the photograph, it is what Barthes called”the pleasure of the text”, that means how each of us read and experience aphotograph, you can be looking at an image of a landscape and reminds you ofwhen you were there on your childhood with your family, this would be the newpunctum, the punctum as time, the time you spend there, the time the picturewas taken at, it could be just an object similar to the one your mum had, it isnot anymore about a tiny part in an image, it is the feelings that image bringsinto you, the memories, the time. Elkins (2007) discuss that the newpunctum is a literary device to make us to understand how he could feel hiskind of pain, maybe that is why Barthes passed to treat photography likesomething superficial, only interested in classify images into like/dont like,punctum/not punctum to talk about feelings, time, and memories. Studium and Punctum in the digital era A digital photograph can fool some of the people all the time, andall of the people some of the time, but it cannot fool all of the people of thetime (Elkins, 2007, p.
209) Barthes is working with analogphotography during all the Camera Lucida bookbecause it wasn’t until 1990 when the first digital camera was available forgeneral public, so we can argue if the studium and punctum is valid in the newgeneration of photographs. The studium as theme, subject and cultural knowledgeis not as different in analog photography as in digital photography, It is aclassification, a language between the photographer and the viewer and as longas there is a photograph it will be a studium. The punctum as something that pricks you it is totally different, wecan not be sure if it exists anymore, because nowadays we have thousands ofpost production programs like Photoshop or Lightroom where you can get rid ofevery detail that distract the viewers from the main subject, also we can addthings, change colors, modified nearly every single detail, and we have toremember that Barthes mentioned the punctum as something out of the control ofthe photographer, this would be easier with analog photography, but withdigital photography.
If we go back to the examples Barthes gave us, we couldchange the little boy teeth and create a new dentition for him, or the woman’sbelt in the family portrait picture, we can erase it, or put a different one,so this makes me doubt about the punctum, I’m not saying it doesn’t exists anymore,but probably it is harder to find a punctum in the photographs since thedigital photography came to our lives. As we mentioned before Barthes notonly talked about one punctum, hediscovered a second one more private and personal connected with time. As ithappened with the studium, this punctum related with feelings and timehas a clear presence in digital photography, and not only the personalphotography like pictures we take for family albums where the time is stoppedbut we can come back there and think about the subject in the image, thispunctum is used a lot lately in marketing and advertisements. The newadvertising campaigns are not that interested in show the product in theadvertisement, like at the beginning of the marketing business where the imagewas the product, now it is all about the new punctum, it is about the feeling that an image is causing on you,it is about connecting the image of the product to you, bringing you to amoment that you had lived or that you are living. For example we can see in thechristmas advertisements, it is all about family, happiness, being together,lights, christmas tree, presents, santa, and everybody connects with it,because it is all what christmas is about, but it is not a christmas thing, inadvertisements about alcoholic drinks, like guinness, we don’t see even anydrink around, we see sports, passion, irishness because it is what the peopleconnect with.
So we could say that the new punctumis more present than ever, and it has been used in our everyday life.