I posted a sort of review of this book a while ago after reading it for the first time. I felt like he ran into some fairly basic limitations in his relationship to photography, e.g., he kind of fluffs the distinction between the photograph and a "capture of reality", but for the most part I found myself wanting him to explore the ideas more deeply. I hate to say this about an intellect of Barthes's scale, but from the perspective of a photographer I think it's kind of a superficial analysis.
From the perspective of a "naive" observer it may be much richer. The real point is personal and sentimental, and maybe I'm being unfair by bringing a specifically photographic set of expectations to the table when Barthes is really writing largely about his own relationship to the past.
Last edited by ntenny; 05-19-2011 at 12:45 AM. Click to view previous post history.
San Diego, CA, USA
The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
-The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_
The book is written from his perspective as a 'spectator' and as a 'spectrum' - the first being someone who looks at photographs and the second as one who is photographed. He doesn't claim to be an 'operator' (photographer) and in fact states he can't "join the troupe of those........ who deal with photography-according-to-the-photographer".
This is an interesting point with regard to Vincents statement about "meerly providing intersting punctum for the casual observer is not what ultimatly drives me to do my best work. (Although it does earn me a living)."
The punctum is not necessarily the subject of a photograph. The punctum, as I read it, is some minor detail that 'punctures' one - that is, it grabs our attention first and maybe leads us into the rest of the photograph. The punctum of the photograph in chapter 19, I mentioned before, is the belt of the girl - not the main point of the photograph - it's a portrait of a family - but what takes Barthes attention. I don't go out to make photographs with a 'punctum' - that idea is in the eyes of the viewer (the spectator) I think.
Thanks AJ for your insights.
Taking this a little further. Is the digital photograph as it exists on a LCD monitor vs it as a paper copy; like a traditional photograph, part of what makes me and many feel differently about the information and subjects being presented?
I feel when a photograph is presented as a fleeting image on a screen is looses it's value as a window in time. At least for me.
I think it's worth noting that Barthes didn't claim to have extensive knowledge of photography - this is a book in memoriam of his mother, after he discovered a photograph of her and made a connection with the medium and the Punctum he speaks about.
I hope I haven't revived a thread that was meant to fall naturally off the board, but Barthes and this book in particular touched me. I haven't read it in a few months, though, so I'm a bit rusty about some of the finer details (I'm planning on re-reading it in the coming days, though.) I would really be interested in this thread if it's something wanted to be kept alive. (:
This is a fundamental issue with a lot of image making and cinema, too. Christian Metz wrote about this as well. He referred to the photograph as the "embalming of time." The photograph becomes a fetishized object. Not in the sexual sense, but in the fundamental sense. It is fetish because is serves as a replacement for something else, in the case of the photograph, reality. It replaces the person, or the subject of the photograph because of its association to the viewer. Barthes' punctum helps facilitate this fetish and correlation between photograph and reality.
Originally Posted by ntenny
M. David Farrell, Jr.
~Buying a Nikon doesn not make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner!
~Everybody has a photographic memory, but not everybody has film!
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its been awhile since i read this, but what i mostly remember about it is feeling that the author disliked photography. right or wrong this feeling/idea turned me off to the rest of the book. it remains around half unfinished on my shelf.
f3hp, passport polaroid, holga, 600, 67
retrospective in progress