Monday, October 19, 2015

Behind The Frame: Finding The Punctum

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I love a dramatic photograph.  Epic is one of my favorite words and I believe every wedding and engagement session should have one EPIC photograph.  Something that transcends the narrative of the day and becomes a work of art unto itself that will stand the test of time.  However the intimate small moments are just as important.  One of my favorite writers on photography, Roland Barthes, describes how every photograph has a studium and a punctum.  The studium is what a photograph connotes.  It is objective and anyone viewing the photograph will see it.  All photographs have a studium, but not all photographs have a punctum.  The punctum is what makes an image truly special and personal because the punctum is the denotation and it can be different for any viewer of the image.  The punctum is the piece of the photograph that leaps off the screen and pierces you.  It makes the experience with the image completely unique as it resonates with each of us differently.  It is the subjective magical element that connects us to a photograph.  My goal is for my photographs to always have punctum for my clients.  I love getting to know my clients before their wedding day and watching their mannerisms and quirks and incorporating that into their photos when I pose them for their engagement session and wedding portraits.  Posing can feel so inauthentic and disingenuous, which is the last think you want when having a portrait taken with the love of your life.  However, being in front of the camera can be awkward and uncomfortable so some posing is a necessity.  When I have the chance to get to know you and watch you together I may see how you fit naturally together and how you embrace when the camera is not around.  Recreating those quirks in front of the camera is when the photograph has a punctum.  So many times grooms become props for their ladies as photographers focus more on the bride, but I love getting a photograph from another angle as well, where you see the joy in the grooms face as he looks upon his bride-to-be during their engagement session and can't help but smiling.  With couples I don't know well I always try to break the ice asking them to whisper something to each other or bring their heads just an inch closer which feels so funny you can't help but laugh and smile.  That little genuine flash of raw emotion creates a photo like this one.  As I'm shooting I am always thinking of composition and framing so the photograph is still pleasing to the eye and fills the edges nicely so our eye can enter the frame- in this image most likely at his hands, which is perfectly touching the bottom right corner of the rule of thirds box- and flow upwards through the image comfortably ending at his smile, which will mean something a little different to every person who looks at it.  Photographs with both studiums and punctums can be both universal and personal, the clean and satisfying composition and lighting makes it universal, but the smile of the groom and slight cupping of the bride's hand on the groom's neck makes the photograph personal.  I'm lucky enough to have my main subject in my work be people in love, which is an utter joy to document, and is in and of itself a universal emotion so even when I'm photographing a personal moment or quirk, others may have a glimmer of recognition of the love in their own lives and the personal transcends into the universal.

Shot on my Contax 645 with 80mm Zeiss at 1/125th at F2.0, metered at +2 in the shadow with the light coming over the mountain at a 45 degree angle nearing sunset.  Processed by my amazing lab Richard Photo Lab.

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