Dear <<First Name>>  

If I like a photograph, if it disturbs me, I linger over it – Roland Barthes

When a photographer makes a photograph and when viewers look at photographs, there are lots of things going on.  For example, there is the scene itself and whether you like it or not; there is the organization of elements within the frame; there are issues around color or tones of black and white; and, a host of other considerations – both theoretical and perceptual.  All those elements can be rolled up into 2 considerations according to a long debated aspect of photography theory -- the studium and punctum (derived from latin words that we won't go into here).  You might want to test these concepts the next time you are looking at photographs.

The concepts of studium and punctum come to us from Roland Barthes’ book, Camera Lucida.  It is one of the standard works of photography theory, in which he notes that photographs are the “living image of a dead thing”.  Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher and critic, influencing schools of theory such as structuralism, semiotics and social theories. You can find more detailed information here and here.

Studium are the elements of the photograph that create an interest and understanding of both the image and of the photographers’ intention. It is the general approach to a photograph that is conditioned by historical and cultural experiences. Journalistic photographs are good examples of the studium.  Studium adds content and interest to an image.  For example in this Koen Wessing photograph, "Nicaragua 1979", Barthes notes, “I understood at once that this photograph's ‘adventure’ derived from the co-presence of two elements" -- the Nuns and the Military.  The studium indicates historical, social and cultural meanings and can be interpreted as a presence of the opposites of war and religion, violence and spirituality.  These create tension and interest in a photograph.  It shows the photographer’s intention.

Punctum goes beyond interest in a photograph. Punctum is an object within the image that jumps out at the viewer. Barthes noted that the Punctum is the part of the photograph that is like an “accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me).” Punctum is the smaller details that attract the viewer into an image. Barthes notes that the Punctum is less about interest (the studium) and more about the emotional response.  The punctum's “mere presence changes my reading, that I am looking at a new photograph, marked in my eyes with a higher value.” The punctum is a personal response and more powerful and compelling to the viewer.  The viewer can like the studium. The punctum leads to a love of an image. As Barthes notes, the punctum is unique to photographs because it is a detail that is sensory and has an intensely subjective effect on the viewer.

Barthes points out his own “punctum” in this Lewis Hines photo, "Idiot Children in an Institution, New Jersey, 1924" saying, “I … hardly see the monstrous heads and pathetic profiles (which belong to the studium); what I see … is the off-centre detail, the little boy’s huge Danton collar, the girl’s finger bandage”

Next time you are looking carefully at an image, check these ideas out and see if the concepts work for you.  Have fun with the concepts and your own looking. 

Ultimately, Photography is subversive, not when it frightens, repels, or even stigmatizes, but when it is pensive, when it thinks
– Roland Barthes

Behind the Scenes: The Digital Darkroom
or the photographers here, this will be familiar, however, for those who are not photographers, here is a behind the scenes look and mini tour of the digital darkroom -- a quick overview of the program Lightroom.

The Library Module: It begins with the library or catalogue where all the photographs from various folders are accessed.  In the panel on the left you will see some of my file folders from various outings with the camera.  On the right, in the upper corner is what is known as the histogram, which gives you a visual interpretation of the exposure across the image.  In the histogram, the left side is pure black, the right side is pure white.  Depending on the affects you want, the middle changes.  The usual objective is to expose the images so that you have some black, with the curve rising through the middle and then coming back down to touch the whites. Below the histogram is where keywords and data associated with the image are stored, such as content of the image and the keywords associated with an image, the location, copyright, the information related to lens, exposure and aperture settings.  Here you are seeing the library in grid view of the images.  As I look at the images I can select and image and make it full screen in the library module to check out the details more closely.

The Develop Module: This is the area of the digital darkroom where the photograph is "developed."  As you can see the histogram is in the upper right corner and as changes to the photograph are made, the histogram changes.  In the develop module, the photo can be cropped, the exposure of the image can be adjusted, the whites, blacks and colors can be strengthened or weakened across the whole image. It is also here, where there are tools for adjusting smaller selected parts of the picture (ie I could select the sky or the sign or the roof top etc).  In those selected parts, similar adjustments to those noted above can be made.  As in a traditional dark room this is where the "burning "a part of the image (making it darker) or dodging (to make a specific area lighter) occurs. As you can see in the photo below the Develop module, there are numerous adjustments that can be made when developing the photograph.  This is the area of the digital darkroom where the hard work takes place.

Prints in the Real World

This is a monthly newsletter, so the November edition is a day late.  Oops. Of course, there were holidays as a contributing factor.  In addition, I had several days away with long time friends in Connecticut, who also own a number of my prints.  It was a little different experience for me to be in place surrounded by my own work. Other than lots of work prints around my work space, I mostly "live with" other peoples' art, such as my good friend Jennifer Dickson, whose work surrounds me.  There were more prints than these two...but it's always fun to see work framed and hanging in someone's home.  Thanks to my hosts and for your collection. 

Aluminum Print in a New Home: I was also excited to see one of the large (30''x 45'') aluminum prints find a new home.  This "Cactus in the Sky" image (#1 of 5) is on raw clear gloss aluminum (ie the aluminum is silver not white). It has several characteristics that make it hard to appreciate in a is highly reflective because of the metal, as light changes or the angle of viewing changes, the image also changes.  Blacks are always black, the grays in the image are silver/gray...and whites are sometimes silver and sometimes white depending on where you stand and how it is lit.  It really is an interesting and awesome experience.  Im glad to have not only taken the leap to experiment with these aluminum prints but excited the first one has a new home.  Thank you to the new owners...and the first owners of an aluminum print from me.

If you are interested in aluminum prints of any images you see, do let me know and I can arrange to send you a small sample of the image to check it out. 
Looking for a stocking stuffer...consider a photobook.
Binhammer Photographs Website
Hoping your holidays are off to a great start and that over the holidays you spend time with people who are important to you.  Also hoping the holidays afford us all some time to slow down, breathe and reflect,
while also preparing for a promising 2022
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