That-has-been

This is not a family photograph, this extremely yellow group of people are not related to me, but they were the highly responsible and sensible staff members who led my school choir on a tour of Barcelona in Spain. I do have more organised and properly posed pictures from this same scene (outside the new Barcelona Cathedral) but I think this one captures better the essence both of this group of teachers and other adults and what my choir embodied for me.

It is obvious the photograph is not carefully staged: the subjects are all facing in different directions whilst another, unknown woman walks through the corner, but it captures a very specific moment and spirit. There is laughter and embarrassment amongst the lack of organisation, a sense that although they are mostly teachers, for the moment they are off duty and just tourists like the student choir members. It helped bring us altogether on the very communal experience of the tour.

Barthes talks about the “noeme”, the “that-has-been” of photographs. Here, it is the fact that this was the last choir tour I did, indeed the last choir related thing I did in a choir I was a member of for seven years, from the age of eleven to eighteen, so it was the last time I saw this group of people together before I went to university. I’ve seen some of the individual members, but I have not seen them altogether since then and I knew when I was taking this photograph that it was probably the last time I would see the subjects. That is the wound that is unique to me, no one else, a lesser version of the photograph of Lewis Payne that Barthes describes where the punctum is “he is going to die” (Barthes 96) and the way that Barthes says “I cannot reproduce the Winter Garden Photograph. It exists only for me.” (Barthes 73). For me, the punctum is not the photograph itself, but its place in time and my knowledge of what happened around and after it and that is something that only I know.

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