Use Of Photography During The Death Of His Mother Henriette

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Term punctum in relation to photography was first coined by Barthes in the 1977 after the death of his mother Henriette. At this time he began writing Camera Lucida, which is a simultaneously an inquiry into the nature and essence of photography and a eulogy to Henriette. Barthes has lived most of his life with her and two had a very strong bond. Following her death, Barthes sets on a quest of finding his mother again in the old photographs and attempted to explain a unique significance a picture of her as a child carried for him. After discovering a certain feeling a certain photograph provoked in him he struggled to find a single word that would adequately describe it. Latin word for puncture, is a feature in the image that conveys significance without invoking any recognisable symbolic system. The punctum is often a detail or in Barthes words "a detail that fills the whole picture". In the terms of the photography, art and even architecture punctum is not the quality of the work itself so much as a product of the viewers arrangement with it. This is why punctum is not the same for every viewer or even for the same viewer at different time, it cannot be codified or predicted. It is created when viewer are forced to search within themself, influenced by a certain element within a photo. For the viewer affected by the punctum, their moderate interest in the photography is punctured and through the open wound the photograph is gazed upon with suspicion and wonder. The punctum is basically something within the image that relates to us on a personal level and therefore is read subjectively and emotionally, not via a conventional knowledge. Usually, emotion already exists within the viewer and if a photograph can make one fill someth... ... middle of paper ... ...rican family taken by James van der Zee in 1926. According to Barthes, the punctum in this photo is the strapped pumps on the feet of a woman in a photograph of these shoes whose style seems too young for the age of the woman wearing them. This "arouses great sympathy" in Barthes, "almost a kind of tenderness", though it later shifts, as the image "works" on the author, to her gold necklace. Necklace which reminds him of his unmarried aunt who lived a rather sad and dreary life. Once again he has been emotionally fixated by the tiny poignant detail. Here we see Barthes being influenced by what he already is familiar with, something personal and recognisable. Zee`s photograph which, by no means was a typical one for that time gives him a punctum, a fixation of something that he is already familiar with, a necklace similar to the one he already seen in his real life.

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