Assignment 1 -151mc – Roland Barthes ‘Camera Lucida’

Roland Barthes was a French Philosopher born in 1915 in Normandy. He began writing Camera Lucida following the death of his mother in 1977. For this assignment I have been asked to read pages 25-28.

Barthes begins by saying ” what I feel about these photographs derives from an average affect, almost from a certain training “, when referring to viewing a photograph. He goes on to states that when viewing pictures he has  ” A kind of general, enthusiastic commitment of course , but without special acuity.”   (acuity – Sharpness or keenness of thought, vision or hearing). This is the Studium, which is a latin word to study.

Barthes then talks about “the second element will break or punctuate the studium”. ” This element which rises from the scene, shoots out like an arrow, and pierces me”. This element that disturbs the studium, Barthes refers to as “punctum” .

Therefore the Studium manifests subject, meaning and context to the photograph. It is the truth of the photograph.  Punctum on the other hand is other hand is the aspect of the photograph that holds our gaze “without condescending to mere meaning or beauty”. Recognising the punctum can be a very subjective response. It is what makes a photograph personal rather than just contextual. Punctum is what gives the photograph meaning rather than merely being a record of a time, place or object.


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