My Ariadne

Memory does not affirm the existence of a particular photograph.  Rather, Barthes argues that an image’s ability to take us back in time arouses the memory we experience when viewing the photograph.  Therefore, I disagree with fbbillup’s assertion that “the photograph literally called up the past.  The photograph did not refuse the remembrance, the context.”  Barthes would not use the terms “past” and “context;” rather, he would distinguish the two as the punctum and the spectrum.  When doing so, the “past” does not refer to the literal history within the photograph.  Instead, the “past” embodies what I have afore mentioned as the memory we experience when viewing the photograph, the punctum.  Barthes claims that the punctum validates his existence as it reaffirms the existence of the photograph’s subjective reality.  In this regard, the photograph “blocks memory” if we describe memory as “remembrance” or “context,” because, according to Barthes, the photograph should allow the viewer to transcend his or her spectrum in order to discover his or her punctum.

Defy and reconcile expands Barthes’s argument as fbbillups proposes we have some autonomy within our relationship with the punctum.  Fbbillups challenges Barthes, “It is not merely chemicals that develop a photograph—our minds do as well.”  Barthes would refute this claim because the development of the photograph is contingent upon the punctum.  The punctum enhances our relationship with the photograph; yet, we have no control over the punctum as Barthes characterizes the punctum as the pricking sensation.  Fbbillups’s recollection of this photograph disproves the fact that we may have some autonomy within our relationship with the punctum.  Ironically, the unsettling information her mother gives her pricks fbbillups as she cannot escape the experience her mother attributes to the photograph.  To some extent, her punctum represents her mother’s spectrum.  As her mother recalls the context of the photograph (the spectrum), fbbillups sees the punctum, which represents the defeat of time, the noeme (“that has been”).

In my own post, I failed to address my punctum as the defeat of time.  For my Winter Garden photograph (the image of my grandfather that does not exist), the inevitability of his death does not confirm the existence of a moment I have created in my imagination.  It simply is not so.  Yet, fbbillups’s and cmtricoli’s posts illuminate this aspect of Barthes that I had not considered before.

Looking at I want to be just like you and learning the story behind Defy and Reconcile, I see the inevitably of time.  The young girls in the yellow tank tops will grow up and not even remember taking this photograph.  Fbbillups will look at this photograph and will forever be pricked by the comment her mother makes in reference to the context of the photograph, a specific moment in time.  Both photographs suggest a timeline but capture an individual moment.  The photographs depict why Barthes himself claimed there must be two punctums.

Barthes states, “I now know there exists another punctum (another ‘stigmatum’) than the ‘detail.’  This new punctum, which is no longer of form but of intensity, is Time, the lacerating emphasis of the noeme (‘that-has-been’), its pure representation.” (Barthes, 96).  I do not experience this new punctum when looking at my fictitious image of my grandfather.  His inevitable death does not conflict me as I embrace my memory of him through an image that has no mark of time.  That photograph has not been.  Yet, the charming youth of the young girl in the yellow tank top will not last forever; she will grow up.  This reflects my punctum.  Looking at this photograph, I expect my punctum to be timeless as it represents my memory of experiencing the photograph.  However, the “that has been” disrupts my sense of timelessness in this photograph.  Knowing that this represents one moment in time proves its existence, but also depicts its fragility, the moment’s immortality.

“A Labyrinthe man never seeks the truth, but only his Ariadne.” (Barthes, 73).  Barthe’s Ariadne is the Winter Garden Photograph.  Barthes asserts that the Winter Garden Photograph serves as the evidence of his existence.  The Winter Garden Photograph pulls him to want to understand all of the complexities of photography.  Perhaps, this is the conceptualization of the punctum that I prefer, a subjective punctum unaffected by time or death.



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