Punctum

Punctum is a term introduced by Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida. Barthes writes: «this word exists to designate this wound, this prick, this mark made by a pointed instrument: the word suits me all the better in that it also refers to the notion of punctuation, and because the photographs I am speaking of are in effect punctuated, sometimes even speckled with these sensitive points; precisely, these marks, these wounds are so many points. This second element … I shall therefore call punctum; for punctum is also: sting, speck, cut, little hole – and also a cast of the dice».
The subject of my examination is not an object (that which is depicted) or its part (a shoe, a gesture, a facial expression, teeth, etc.), but the body of the photograph itself. Any old photograph, especially one that has been discarded or lost to the curio stalls of flea markets, brings on heart-wrenching pain. Perhaps this pain is caused by the chasm of impossibility of which speaks Barthes – between the photograph and the object. Objects of old photographs have long since died. They do not exist in either my memory, my present, or in history. Only yellowed papers remain. What interests me is a certain type of «gerontology of a photograph» - exposed spots, fractured folds, torn edges, disintegration… In the margins, the photograph disappears completely, while the ultimate punctum, it follows, is the cut in the empty photo album, corners or glue remaining on its pages. And if we are to believe Barthes, who says that a photograph serves as evidence of «that which I have seen has happened», then the disappearance of a photograph means that something from our past had been irrevocably lost. The death of a photograph is the death of history. But my mind houses hundreds of photographs. Their shadows are projected on the empty pages of an old photo album. Although, these are metaphysical shadows. Transferred through carbon paper, they are like bodily imprints. These are death masks, only not of people; these are death masks of photographs. In their tautology they only increase the sense of loss.
And yet, if shadows exist, it means that somewhere there must be light.