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Barthes Questions

Barthes Questions

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Published by: wayne_grout on Mar 09, 2011
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Wayne Grout 2/30/09 Perspectives on Photography Barthes Questions

When Barthes uses the term studium , he is referring to ones basic understanding of the photo. Studium depends on the culture and values of the viewer. When one encounters the stadium, they understand the photographer s world and understand the photo. There is no strong emotion associated with the stadium. However, the studium is not indifferent. It can be associated with the thoughts of I like/I dislike . Barthes classifies this as half-desire. The fact that culture is a contract between viewers and photographers is very interesting. This means that there is something expected of the viewer. The viewer will see the photograph in the context of the culture that they are involved in. Their experiences aid with the understanding of the photo. The punctum is sought or found by the viewer. Overall, the studium can be seen as ones application of all that is learned that allows one to participate in a photo. An example of this is a picture of a Christmas tree. At the surface, it is just a large plant. However, with the studium, I develop a deeper understanding of the tree, as it plays an important role in a tradition of the Christian culture I belong too.

The punctum is another Latin term that Barthes uses. It serves as a device to break up the Studium. The punctum is an unconscious thing. Whereas one seeks out the studium, the punctum is different. There is a sharp feeling associated with the punctum. It is almost like being shot with from the photograph, penetrating the viewer. The punctum can also be seen as a punctuation mark in the photo. It is an exclamation mark, accentuating sensitive points. It disturbs the studium as well as the viewer. The punctum is something that seriously affects the viewer in a much stronger way than the studium. Also, every photograph will have studium, but not all will have punctum. It is related to the viewer directly. In the above description, the photo of the Christmas tree has studium, but not punctum. For it to have punctum, I, the viewer must be moved somehow. If the tree had a large snapped branch on it, which reminded me of the ice storm that caused shear destruction recently, I may be moved. This could be considered the punctum.

To avoid this fate. The about of information gleaned from a photo often depends on an individual s level of observation. Barthes sees a cloth cap and a necktie as important information. For example. This thought process will often dilute the meaning or original intent of the photograph. In this way the photography can teach the viewer. This questioning can lead to a deeper understanding of the customs and culture of the subjects. It rejects the notion of a focused meaning.Contingency I particularly like the idea that a photo is pure contingency and nothing else. a photography must speak to the viewer. that gives one a greater sense of invisible ethnographic knowledge. Certain aspects of culture and practices can be learned through a well taken photograph. However. This idea can also foster questions about why things are the way they are in the photo. Instead of being viewed politically. the meaning can sometimes be ignored and the photograph ends up getting analyzed aesthetically. society wants there to be meaning in everything. it must think on its own. It is photography. Instead. another observer might see the old man s white beard as an important aspect of the subjects culture. . not painting. Pure Meaning I find it interesting how society distrusts pure meaning. This can occur if the meaning of the photography is too intense for the viewer.

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