While trolling the Internet during a session of armchair fieldwork, I found a wonderful archive of images with battered and tattered ‘visual testaments’ to the undeniable link between the surface of the photographic print and the human body. The words I might use to describe the top layer of each of these photographic prints are the same terms I would employ to characterize variations in human skin: mottled, punctured, scarred, faded, scratched, stained, thin, discolored, and even dead. I am particularly drawn to the images with distorted edges that appear to have suffered some internal disaster like the sudden shift of an undiscovered seismic plate in aged paper or a hole seemingly burnt into the surface of an image by a liquid fire that laid in wait inside the paper’s fibrous threads.
Hal Foster, borrowing from Lacan, might call these surface ruptures – ‘troumatic’ (trou=hole). They do not belong to the realm of Barthes’ punctum—a ‘prick,’ personal and individual that relies on the ‘story’ of the photo and the viewer. No, these ‘eruptions of the real,’ resist a singular narrative And yet, the recurring bites, scratches, tears, and burns, are visually shared; they pull the reader into a communal realm of unknowing.
Even though these types of troumatic ruptures are absent (for the most part) in the images Barthes gives us in his Camera Lucida, in Barthes’ Myopia I hope to show how these pops and fissures inhabit the book in the gaps between word and text.
Next time…the phantom photo archives in Barthes’ Camera Lucida.