A few summers ago I went to Fiji on a teen tour program. A few afternoons during our stay, we went fishing. This consisted of setting up several lines and letting them drag behind the boat for a few hours until something bit. As soon as this happened, one of the group members got to attempt to reel in the fish. My turn had come and I was eager to be successful. Eventually, I got the fish back to the boat. It is tradition to kiss the fish that you catch. As soon as the fish was in the boat, my group members urged me to kiss it. So I obliged and kissed the fish on its back. Not a moment later, they started chanting for me to kiss the fish on its lips, which as pictured above, I did.
Barthes discusses the “punctum” of a photograph. That thing which “sticks” out at you and makes you remember the photo. In this instance it is the look on the guide’s face when I kissed the fish. It was not necessary for me to kiss it on the lips, and when I did so he was astonished. The look on his face best illustrates the feeling that I had at that moment. I couldn’t believe I had done it, but it was all done for the sake of amusement, and it succeeded in doing so. Although Barthes might argue that the punctum is something we can’t control, but rather finds us, I like to think of this photo’s punctum as a choice I made in order to preserve the memory of the trip and the emotions that I felt during that wonderful summer.