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The Punctum: a Subterfuge of the Invisible


The punctum is the element that transforms the vision of an image into a sensorial and emotional experience. In his book "The Camera Lucida", the philosopher Roland Barthes coined this term to describe that which pierces us, touches us in an inexplicable way when we look at a photograph. The punctum moves on the edges of the unspeakable, and, evasively, goes beyond technique or composition , penetrates our depths and pierces the layers of our humanity.



When looking at a photograph, you can feel the punctum. It is subtle, almost imperceptible, but deeply powerful. This power is what involves us, reconfiguring our vision of reality and infusing the image with an emotional complexity that makes it inescapably magnetic.



The punctum experience is personal and subjective. What pierces one person's soul may not have the same effect on another. The look of a child, the detail of a texture, the way light falls on a object; These elements can serve as an element that immortalizes photography in our being. It calls us beyond the surface, to plumb the depths of experience that an image can embody.



But finding and incorporating punctum into a photograph is an act of acuity and intuition. It is not something that is planned or forced, as it is an element that occurs more in the realm of perception and emotional reaction of the observer than in the deliberate intention of the photographer. While a photographer may aspire to create a work that has the potential to evoke a punctum, the effectiveness of that intention can only be confirmed by the individual experience of the viewer.



When consciously seeking to create a "piercing effect", the photographer may inadvertently stray into the realm of cliché or emotional manipulation,< /em> which could work for some, but may not have the desired result of a truly penetrating and universal punctum.



The presence or absence of a punctum can also be the decisive factor in the longevity of a photographic work. Images that contain this mysterious quality tend to be those that stay with us, that return to our minds, and that continue to affect us regardless of time or place. They become, in their own silent way, icons of our collective experience, bridges between the personal and the universal.



The punctum, then, can be seen as a provocation and also as a proposal. He challenges photographers to go beyond technique and enter the realm of the emotional, the intuitive and even the spiritual. And he calls on us, as viewers, to engage with photography in a deeper and more meaningful way. We can, therefore, begin to understand photography beyond a representation of the world, in a language that speaks directly to the heart.



In a universal quest to touch and be touched, we find in the punctum a form of truth that surpasses visual articulation and can truly be felt. It is the magic of a phenomenon that, once experienced, inaugurates in us a new paradigm of understanding, enriching and expanding our borders sensorials.





Written by Angela Rosana, learn more about me here.< /span>


Credits to the photographers appear in the images, with links to their respective Instagram profiles. Find out more about each person’s work!


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Publication on Instagram in November 2023

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