The exercise no. 2 in my course was to pick one of 5 photos from The Photo Book, analyse and interpret it, reflect and comment on the compostition, comment and reflect on the image-text and finally explain what I understand with the term punctum. This is a resume of the exam that contained approx. 5.000 characters.
My choice was Goldfish Glass, 1937 by Herbert List.
Location is the Greek island Santorini. The sun is setting behind a glass bowl with a swimming gold fish. According to List, “the fish symbolizes the human spirit trapped in the material world. It cannot escape from that setting into whatever lies beyond, which is represented by light playing on the distant water.”
My interpretation was that even if the photo is from 1937 it can symbolize the modern man. We live in a “bowl”, moving around between family and work. We look out through the “glass”, TV, Internet, Facebook etc, to the rest of the world – “so close but still so far away”.
The term punctum can be explained like a feeling the viewer get from a detail in the photo. The feeling can be a knowledge, memory and/or experience the viewer has about the detail or the photo.
I have been to Santorini a couple of times and punctum for me in this photo was that I remembered the visit to the island in the photo. It was an active volcano with sulfur steam and the smell of rotten egg…