I’m deep into Roland Barthe’s Camera Lucida and his observations are both fascinating and disturbing. If you can get past his morbid obsession with the death of his mother, his points are valuable and quite eye opening.
I’ve never truly thought about the process in which a photograph really moves you. When you’re flipping through stacks of images or running your finger along the pages of a book and you stop because there’s this undeniable force, a pull, a connection between that image and the depths of your being. Roland Barthes attempts to unearth the truth and reasoning behind that force.
Perhaps I’m using this blog as an exercise to better help me understand Barthes thinking, therefor allowing me to write a paper worthy of a passing grade, (both and the paper and in the class. Graduation depends on it.) Maybe that’s why I feel intrigued to write about it, but whatever the case, his views are valuable and I feel the world hasn’t be adequately introduced to Roland Barthes.
Barthes has created a distinction between what he calls studium (the obvious meaning of an image) and the punctum (the unique connection, personal and dependent on the viewer). Have you ever broken down the concept behind a photograph? Barthes seems to believe an image can be broken down through minimal subcategories. Either you like it, or you don’t. Either you view the studium, or are embraced by the punctum. An image captivates you, or it doesn’t.
Barthes describes an unseen phenomena created in good photographic work, and I agree strongly with these concepts. An image creates an air. And unseen aura produced within the borders of the image, but with capabilities of extending those borders, piercing the viewers and portraying a story of truth through one still frame. In other words, Barthes finds intrigued in images that can be read. Images that produce a background or a story, without ever saying a word. He seemed to make this connection primarily with images of people, and even more so, images of people who had a moment of ocular connection. They looked directly into the camera. He was fascinated with the idea that a human being can tell you their whole story while looking into a small plastic frame filled with glass and mirrors. Somehow, a person, who could have died years upon years ago, can still tell you their story through the air of the image, or as Barthes calls it, the shadow of a body. He uses this description while analyzing and image of a man, looking directly at the camera, but well lit with no noticeable, human-like shadow. It took me a moment to realize the shadow was being transcended through the image as I looked at it.
These images are not of what is no longer, but of what has been. While painting and other art forms can dwell heavily on memory, imagination or imitation, the magic of photography becomes apparent through its stunning truth. Realities no longer capable of our human touch. Almost like a dream. The blinks of a reality once grasped.