Studium and Punctum#

These are Latin terms used by Roland Barthes in the book Camera Lucida to analyse photography.

The studium is the general aspect of a photograph, usually relating to its factual context.

The punctum is a particular quality that — in some sense — pierces the observer.

Barthes gives an example of an old photo of a young man awaiting execution for the attempted assassination of a French politician.

Noting his clothes, the appearance of his cell and the chains used to hold him, is to consider only the studium.

There is also the double death of this figure, in that he has died already (historically) and yet is about to die (in the photo). This would be to consider the punctum.

It might be argued that great artists (and great critics) are experts in capturing such piercing qualities.