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She suggests that the camera became a kind of way to experience travel, first by separating the tourist from reality — placing a box with a lens between them and their views, makes it easier for people to manage their displacement — and then to provide evidentiary proof, in the form of a photograph, that the trip actually took place. Mission accomplished!

Marty Jones

Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs. We have all experienced this in a museum or at a historic site, as tourists move from place to place, from picture to picture, hardly looking, taking photographs with their phones. Do they see the art, artifact or object? Or possibly, they prefer to rush through the physically real place, protected by their camera, and then with the picture in hand, the experience can be contemplated in the safety of their home.


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Sontag, in her continuing social critique, points out that this kind of activity is particularly prevalent to those that come from workaholic societies, such as Germany, Japan, and the USA. Photographers were supposed to do more than just see the world as it is, including its already acclaimed marvels; they were to create interest, by new visual decisions. There are few footnotes, no bibliography or index.


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  • Each chapter presents either an additional new concept or an elucidation of the previous one. Although associated with post-structuralism, Barthes is clearly informed by the core tenets of structuralism, in that he provides a defined and universal framework: a nearly scientific formulation; a classification system on how to understand photographs. Throughout the following text, the author has used the chapter number rather than the page number to reference quotations.

    This flaw, this disorder, suggests an inability to classify photography or a photograph. Barthes decides that he would start by examining a small number of photographs that he personally liked. And, with this obstacle momentarily cleared, he determines that there are three universally required ingredients of every photograph. Thus he begins a personal exploration of himself as spectator. Like everyone else, he sees photographs everywhere, but amongst those that have been pre-selected by others, having passed through a cultural filter picture editors, curators, etc.

    And that others, on the contrary, were so indifferent to me that by dint of seeing them multiply, like some weed, I felt a kind of aversion toward them, even of irritation. He first considers a number of strategies on trying to understand what makes a photograph interesting to him. Conversely, without adventure, no photograph.

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    The idea of studium, takes the reader back to the original quandary: the flaw, the disorder of photographs, filled with endless and eclectic content. Barthes hence adds a second specialized, or if you will, Barthesian term: punctum. Barthes then proceeds through many chapters to provide examples and greater depth to these potential fundamental and universal criteria: the studium and the punctum.

    This power is often metonymic. Through out part one, Barthes uses examples of publically available photographs; not personal ones. Part two, as mentioned earlier in this paper, is a detailed account of his reflections and thoughts about finding a photograph that provides him with the greatest sense of truly knowing his mother. Barthes was very close to his mother and lived with her until she died, about a year before this book was published. And since this constraint exists only for Photography, we must consider it, by reduction, as the very essence, the noeme of Photography.

    Camera Lucida Notes – aec

    The photograph shows us what necessarily stood in front of the camera. At this point the past, which is usually the forgotten time, that cannot resist the distortions of our memories or escape our short memory, becomes real, and contrary to our everyday attitude it gains priority over the present. Sontag, Susan. Print 2. Barthes, Roland. In England, an interesting parallel and contrast might be offered by the Barts Pathology Museum of the University of London.

    Although access to the collection itself is carefully controlled, Barts nonetheless sponsors an enormously wide variety of lectures, events, film screenings, etc. And these examples might easily be multiplied Yet they are still relatively rare instances. Most medical collections remain firmly inaccessible to the public except under specific conditions or licenses, and, at least in the U.

    Nevertheless, coincident with these changes in institutional orientation, there has been an equally explosive eruption of natural historical, anatomical, and pathological material into the productions of both high and popular culture. Thus Damien Hirst's "natural history" works, and especially perhaps the Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living and Away From the Flock have become icons of this cultural moment; while his Diamond Skull hangs giddily on the edge of macabre and very expensive kitsch Of particular interest here is their study of a pair of ectopagus dicephalus dibrachius tripus twins laterally joined - ectopagus- and possessing two heads, two arms, and three legs The specimen has been photographed against a neutral background, which was then itself blacked out, so that in the final presentation the skeleton stands out as a sepia and brown object against a flat black ground.

    It thus exists in a non-space, entirely separate from "our" world, as if suspended miraculously in a black void. It inhabits a world in which it is the only extant being. This strategy has the immediate effect of "defamiliarizing" the specimen, of placing it outside our world of lived experience. It can easily be regarded as a "thing", an example of a specific teratological development today, we would say a specific genetic malfunction that renders it exemplary of a class for Hirst and Piersol, literally a "species" of similar objects.

    This sense of inhumanity is reinforced by the bizarre mis-articulation of the skeleton, which nature has assembled "all wrong" -the vestigial third leg is perhaps especially disconcerting. It is impossible, however, to efface the sense of humanity completely from the tiny skulls, one of which appears in a pure "classical" profile in traditional portrait iconography often a commemorative marker , the other of which is shown tipped slightly forward and cocked a bit to one side, as if in contemplation or puzzlement.

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    Highlights from Camera Lucida — Robyn Thomas

    Since the skulls seem perfectly if incompletely formed, they raise the spectre of a self or selves tragically and prematurely snuffed out. This sets up a tension within the image -one that in fact carries through the entire book- which is resolved, in so far as it can be, contextually. We know that this is a medical text which aims to present and explain a certain kind of material, and this enables us to "bracket" that material so as to facilitate the authors' obvious scientific intention In effect, it is context that allows us to read the images "correctly".

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    We maintain a critical or scientific distance, while at the same time never quite forgetting or suppressing the humanity of the abortive beings that have become the specimens we actually see. Although the strategies employed by the commissioned artists who were virtually unrestricted in their choice of material and the particulars of their staging were extremely varied, the work of the artists attracted to the foetal skeletons both normal and teratological seems relatively "of a piece" -sharing more similarities than differences. Scott Lindgren's Cephalothoracopagus is at once a [double] portrait and a study of a specimen mounted for display Although background detail is almost entirely suppressed, so that the brightly lit skeleton is prominently placed against a dark ground, the specimen remains firmly grounded in "our" world, the world of the museum and its by-now antique collections, by means of the wooden base on which the preparation stands, and to which have been affixed various labels and inventory numbers.

    The figure stands in a classic three-quarter full-length portrait pose, easily achieved by rotating the base with respect to the plane of the picture. Likewise, we can easily see a number of the wires and pins that have been used to secure the preparation. The dark background is also a common Renaissance portrait convention; and the three-quarter view has the effect of presenting the face as [almost] believably human, although that effect is achieved at the expense of a sort of flattening out of the whole head.

    Not surprisingly, given the condition of the conjoining, the face wears an expression that is also rather flat and affectless, a lack of affect that is carried downward through the whole body, which seems to stand at rest, flat-footed and rather ill at ease. What differentiates this photo from the photos used to illustrate Hirst and Piersol?

    More than anything else, a kind of re-contextualization. In the case of Hirst and Piersol, the presentation of the individual photos was highly abstract, the specimens floated as if in an inky void, while the context the fact that the photo occurred as an illustration to a medical text was external to the image. In Lindgren's photo, on the other hand, the context is internal to the photo.

    It exists in the record of the preparation which marks this "portrait" simultaneously as the image of a museum specimen, that is, of a mere thing -a comparison with the skeletal plates from Vesalius' Tabulae sex is especially relevant here Arguably, it is this re-contextualization that facilitates the promiscuity of meaning to which Asma alludes in our opening quote. And it is this promiscuity in turn, that opens up the very interstices Temple-Cox perceives as incompatible with her own sense of self. On one level, the specimens read obviously as what they superficially are: three mounted foetal skeletons, photographed so that the resultant image seems to carry an air of extreme age, as if the 19th century provenance of the specimens was matched by the antiquity of the photographic record of their truncated existences.

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    It is as if the photograph itself aspires to create its own historicity, embedding itself in fictive time as deeply as the objects it records were themselves embedded in their own temporal realities. At the same time, the three specimens are posed in a way that apes the arrangement that might mark an actual conversation. The three malformed and abortive infants stand as might three old men both the appearance of the specimens and the character of the photographic print work to reinforce this sense of agedness chatting, perhaps on a street corner, their fragile forms bent and twisted now by age rather than deformity, and lit by the flickering light of a street lamp that plays across the night-time blackness.

    It is the work of the photograph to unmake our expectations; and this happens in a way that grants to the specimens a kind of spurious self-hood, an aged being that exists as if on the brink of death. Such a strategy effectively forestalls the question of the potential selves that may or may not be implied by the existence of the physical beings whose skeletal remains are in fact captured in the photo Temple-Cox's transformation of this appropriated motif, however, is even more radical than is the case for the photographers Lindgren, Akin and Ludwig.

    In Life Mask I , the cephalothoracopagus foetus appears as a kind of decontextualized sign, which marks or disfigures the white face of the mask like a tattoo. And in that disturbing, disfiguring sense, it can seem, again like a tattoo, to carry a transgressive connotation: if nothing else, it is an affront to the integrity of the face, to its balance and sense of repose -whether in life or in death It may be, however, that this kind of comparison misses an important point: that the changes we have been tracking in visual culture are indexed to an increasing suspicion even belief that what lives, suffers, dies, is anatomized, bottled, skeletonized, catalogued, and displayed by medical science or the tattoo artist's skill is not so much a self as something that in fact is irreducibly and brutally physical: to wit, the frankly corporeal body Despite his putative humanity, Snuffy seems to display virtually no affect, no external quiver or nuance of pose and expression that might suggest an interior life.

    The left leg has peremptorily been removed and discarded -a macabre literalization of the phrase disjecta membra. Whether or not he retains some "interior sense" of that physical abjection is a moot point. Figure 3. Collection of the artist; used by permission. Yet Snuffy is explicitly not a specimen or even a waxwork teaching aid. He properly sits in an exhibition space, rather than a lecture hall or an operating theatre.


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    • Nor, as might be expected and despite his evident artistry, does he evoke any enduring sense of the Renaissance ideal of a man made in the image and likeness of God. Instead, he seems an embodied metaphor for a strictly carnal rather than an incarnated understanding of man's fleshly being. There is only the prison of the flesh; for the prison and the prisoner are one.

      Still, there is a certain ambivalence here; and perhaps necessarily so by virtue of Snuffy's evocation of what we might characterize as the "natural body", with its residual echoes, however distant, mediated, or mutilated of the classical tradition seen as the apotheosis of "naturalism", that supreme fiction of pictorial representation. It is far easier to imagine a stick figure as "soul-less" or simply as an arbitrary graphic mark denoting "person" than it is even figures as objectified and anatomized as Snuffy.