seminar 5 studium and punctum

Seminar 5: Studium and Punctum – Tuesday 4th April 2017

In Camera Lucida Roland Barthes identifies two elements of the photograph – the studium and the punctum.  These terms distinguish between what might be interesting about the photograph generally and what might be more significant for the individual viewer.

In this session you will explore the studium and punctum within a photograph you have chosen.



Part One: Start by answering these first questions individually:

  1. Why have you chosen this image?

It is visually very striking, with a nice composition and with plenty of emotion.

  1. What do you identify as the ‘studium’ of the image?

An old lady, with a forlorn expression on her face. The photographer has captured a worried and tired look to the lady’s aura. The shallow depth of field seperates her out from the background, and the use of black and white film has heightened the sense of loneliness that is to come and constant worry about the future of her home.

  1. What do you identify as the ‘punctum’ of the image?

To me it’s the pursed lips. It gives a sense to me of sickness due to worry, they look as though they are trembling holding back the tears that are forming in her eyes. They enhance the look of disgust at the situation. They are holding something back that is trapped inside her, an external barrier to the haunting in her eyes.

Part Two: When you’ve written your answers get into small groups to discuss your responses.

Then discuss these questions in your group:

  1. Why might Barthes have chosen newspaper or historical images to discuss the ideas of studium and punctum?

By using well known images the public already had an inkling to the studium of the image. This makes his job of describing punctum much easier, had he used his own images the audience may have struggled to separate the two meanings.

  1. Do you think Barthes’s ideas are still relevant in today’s modern image-world? Give your reasons.

Yes and no. I feel that he gave a framework to something that those looking at art and photographs already do. Everyone likes images for different reasons and different parts of the image strike them in different ways. Barthes use of studium and punctum allows people to give structure to what they see.

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