Sunday, September 09, 2007

In which the Meridian is punctured by punctum

Something about this post over at Pam's excellent blog, Tales from the Microbial Lab--well, okay, the inevitability of certain things, if you must know--brought to the fore something that I've been pondering of late: our differing responses to reflections and photographs.

Okay, okay. Here it is. I'd wanted to sound all metaphysical and stuff, but I might as well spit it out: In pictures of me I look like I have less hair than when I look in the mirror, and it's bugging me a little.

I have some more thinking about this to do, but the reason seems to lie at the intersection of the Venus Effect (specifically, the passage there discussing Aphrodite's association with mirrors) and some things Barthes has to say about the nature of "a" photograph in Roland Barthes' Camera Lucida (a summary is here; you'll find "punctum" defined there). Sure, the question arose out of a bit of vanity, I do confess. It's nevertheless striking to me that two modes of representation that initially seem so similar can give rise to such different responses in the viewer.

More on this later.

7 comments:

Conrad H. Roth said...

How about pictures of you in a mirror?

R. Sherman said...

Once in a blue moon, I'll see a picture of me I like. BTW, I could say the same thing except the hair is grayer in photos than in the morning. Call it, "The Delusions of Age."

Cheers.

Winston said...

The images I see in the mirror are at least tolerable -- they do not make me throw up too often. But photos -- I have never seen one that looked like the guy in the mirror. Every aspect of my appearance in photos seems exaggerated toward the negative end of the scale.

A similar phenomenon occurs with recorded voice. I don't recognize it as being my own.

Pam said...

How hilarious. I've inspired a post on HAIR. No, really, I know it's much more...but the whole hair thing gave me a much needed monday morning laugh! I'll look forward to reading the 'more' later.

John B. said...

Thanks for all of your comments. I don't have much time this morning to do anything other than thank you, but I will say to Conrad that I have a couple of self-portraits of the kind you describe, and they weird me out. I don't think either Aphrodite or Barthes had such images in mind . . .

John B. said...

Also: perhaps Walter Benjamin's fear of the photograph as infinitely-reproducible (See his "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction") fits in here in some way as well.

dd said...

A photograph is an abstraction of life, a frozen moment where the perspective can vary. Photographs are the ultimate lie since they are such a convincing bluff.

Once, I was in a ladies room at some rock n roll concert. I don't remember who. I do remember all the girls primping in the mirror and the fear of live flame (smoking) and aerosol products (hair spray)...

Anyway... as I pondered this to the sound of tinkling I heard a girl in the stall next to me ask her girlfriend how she thought the world might be different without mirrors. I was impressed and wondered if it was her or recreational drugs asking such questions.