Alpert, A. (2010). Overcome by photography: Camera lucida in an international frame. Third Text, 24(3), 331. doi:10.1080/09528821003799486

I found this text through a Halle Library E-Search. In this text, the author traces Barthes’s satori, coming from translation studies, the author offers a revision of Barthes’s theory of photography, namely that the photograph represents a surplus, not a direct equivalent.

Olin, M. (2002). Touching photographs: Roland Barthes’s ”mistaken” identification. Representations, 80(1), 99-118. doi:10.1525/rep.2002.80.1.99

I found this text through a Halle Library E-Search. In this text, the author argues that the significance of the photograph is not the relationship between the photograph and its referent, but between the photograph and its viewer or user, in the messy slippages of identification that happen in that interaction.

Sliwinski, S. (2004). A painful labour: Responsibility and photography. Visual Studies, 19(2), 150-162. doi:10.1080/1472586042000301656

I found this text through a Halle Library E-Search. In this text, the author argues that images of suffering create moments in which beholders realize their inability to respond, but that this limitation provides opportunity to question ethical relationships.

Starrett, G. (2003). Violence and the rhetoric of images. Cultural Anthropology, 18(3), 398-428. doi:10.1525/can.2003.18.3.398

I found this text through a Halle Library E-Search. In this text, the author engages in a discussion of Barthes’s Camera Lucida to argue that the mediation of social relationships that come from the first interaction of the photographer and the witnessed violence makes photography the coin of political communication.

Brown, E. H., Phu, T. (2014). Feeling photography. Durham: Duke University Press.

I found this text after following a rabbit-hole of looking at multiple sources’ bibliographies and then confirming that an Ebook version of the text is available through Halle Library. The collection takes on the material and affective response to photography through a variety of theoretical perspectives and through the analysis of multiple artists and photographic technologies.


Thomas’s Intro

Hi, everyone! My name is Thomas Passwater. I am a fourth semester grad student in the Written Communication program, on the teaching of writing ‘track’. I am a graduate assistant: in that role, I teach one section of WRTG 121 and work in two satellite locations of the writing center. Before coming to Eastern, I did my undergrad at East Carolina in English studies. There I was able to work as an undergrad writing consultant in their writing center and study abroad in London.

As I am trying to complete my MA here, my project takes on inflections of material, spatial, and visual rhetorics. I’m excited to have the opportunity to study visual rhetoric now. After completing my MA, I’m hoping to pursue a Rhetoric and Composition PhD.

Big Ideas

Because photographs are static images, the viewer of the photograph has the ability to study the image for an unrestricted period of time, allowing him the opportunity to experience both the punctum and studium of the photograph in ways he would not be able to with moving picture films (Barthes 26). The photograph captures and reproduces time and allows society to understand culture and time in ways that were previously impossible (Sontag 13). [LW]

Lauren’s Intro


My name is Lauren Winton and I’m in my first year in the Written Communication program. I am a graduate assistant, and I teach first-year writing and work in the University Writing Center. Before my time here at Eastern, I worked as a Business Process Optimization Analyst for an insurance company in Atlanta. I graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Science, Technology and Culture in 2013.

I’m excited to be in the Written Communication program, and I’ve already met many wonderful people during my time here. I hope to work as a technical writer in the non-academic professional world once I graduate.

Visual rhetoric seems like an interesting topic. I think the implications of having a foundational understanding of visual rhetoric will be nothing but practical in the workplace. As a technical communicator, visual rhetoric is an essential course for my knowledge repertoire.

I’m looking forward to a great semester with everyone!

All the best,


Brooknotes–Shari 1/23

 Citation:   Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977. Print.

Keywords: Photograph, Culture, Society, Politics, Evidence

Summary:  Susan Sontag’s 1977 book contains a collection of six essays about photographs, which reveal information regarding our history as well as our culture and society. The first essay is titled, “In Plato’s Cave”, is a reference to Plato’s philosophy of truth/knowledge. The chapter exposes the nature of images and their relation to reality and presents a record of cultural and social beliefs about photography.  It also describes the typical photography uses throughout history.  Plato in The Republic wrote and described  human knowledge as an allegory of a cave in which prisoners are chained facing a wall and shadows of real objects are cast. The prisoners in the cave witness these shadows and perceive them as real. Sontag claims that what the viewer sees in the image correlates with their attitude to reality.  She begins her book with a brief summary of the history of photography and mentions the value of it as we keep the world in photos and then contrasts it with movies.

The first cameras were made in France and England in 1840s to capture larger images and were operated just by inventors or professional photographers. Today; however, there is at least two cameras in each household particularly in families with children to record their precious moments. Sontag notes that even though photographs are a valuable part of each book since they are evidence but they are the image of an image.  She adds that photographs are more reliable compared to paintings which are the painter’s interpretation of the reality. Sontag describes the images and the photographers’ relationships as a “chronic voyeuristic relation”.

Close to the end of this chapter, Sontag states that photography is not recording the events but recording just those events that photographers choose.  She uses the Korean War and the pictures that were captured to emphasize on the ideology of the society that those pictures were taken for.  She also notes that after repeatedly seeing the same images, even the emotional photos no longer had the same emotional effect as it had been seen for the first time by the same viewers. She refers to photography as pieces of information in the time that people are getting more interested in pictures than words. Sontag said this world ruled by photographic images as means of information. A photograph has multiple meanings; to see something in the form of a photograph is to encounter a potential object of fascination.

At the end of this chapter, she restates “Plato’s Cave image” and says that people think that through photography real images of the world can be captured but in reality it’s the opposite of that. “The limit of photographic knowledge of the world is that, while it can goad conscience, it can, finally never be ethical or political knowledge” (18).  Human beings interpret evidence and images by our personal ideologies and what we see in images are not mere images of the truth—knowledge.


  1. “To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge—and, therefore, like power” (2).
  2. “To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as a camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a subliminal murder – a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time” (10).
  3. “Photographs are as much as an interpretation of the world as a paintings and drawings are” (4).
  4. “Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible, invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy” (17).


  1. What is she trying to say when she said: “a Photograph is not just the result of an encounter between an event and a photographer; taking is an event in itself?”
  2. Why does she think photographs are more memorable than movies?
  3. What does she mean by “ …in the situation in which most people use photographs, their value as information is of the same order as fiction.”(16)?

Works cited:

  1. Photography is a tool for dealing with things everybody knows about but isn’t attending to. My photographs are intended to represent something you don’t see.                                                                –Emmet Gowin
  1. I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.

–Garry Winogrand

  1. Photography is a system of visual editing. At bottom, it is a matter of surrounding with a frame a portion of one’s cone of vision, while standing in the right place at the right time. Like chess,or writing, it is a matter of choosing from among given possibilities, but in the case of photography the number of possibilities is not finite but infinite.

–John Szarkowski

Bibliography – 1/23

Gries, L. (2015). Still life with rhetoric: A new materialist approach for visual rhetorics. University Press of Colorado.

I found this book by using Google Scholar to search for works that cite Barthe’s Camera Lucida. In this book, Gries uses the Obama Hope image to study how images circulate and inspire others to create similar images or works within other genres. [HD]

Kress, G., & Van Leeuwen, T. (2006). Reading images: The grammar of visual design (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

I found this book by using Google Scholar to search for works that cite Barthe’s Camera Lucida. The authors include a wide-range of discussions about visual communication, with examples of children’s drawings, school textbook illustrations, advertisements, scientific diagrams, and three-dimensional structures (sculptures, toys, architecture, etc.). Through these mediums, they examine how images communicate meaning. [HD]

Murray, J. (2010). Non-discursive rhetoric: Image and affect in multimodal composition. SUNY Press.

I found this book by using Google Scholar to search for works that cite Sontag’s On Photography. Murray draws from philosophy, rhetorical theory, and neuroscience to develop his own model of composing, which brings together writing, technology and the ways our minds process images. Within the book, he details ways writing teachers can help their students create multimodal texts. [HD]

Rettberg, J. W. (2014). Seeing ourselves through technology: How we use selfies, blogs and wearable devices to see and shape ourselves. United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan.

I found this book by using Google Scholar to search for works that cite Barthe’s Camera Lucida. The book was written by Jill Rettberg, a professor of Digital Culture at the University of Bergen in Norway. This open access book explores how we use technologies, selfies, blogs, and other devices to help us understand ourselves in a society where our machines sometimes rule who we are. [HD]

Rose, G. (2016). Visual methodologies: An introduction to researching with visual materials (4th ed.). SAGE.

I found this book by using Google Scholar to search for works that cite Barthe’s Camera Lucida. This is a bestselling guide about visual culture and analyzing and interpreting various forms of visual content. The fourth edition is up-to-date to include discussions of social media and new technologies. Other areas of interest within the book include a chapter about how to use the book, chapters on discourse analysis, and discussions about research methods. [HD]

Hillary’s Intro

Hello, everyone! This is my second semester in the Written Communication MA program Teaching of Writing track. I work as a graduate assistant teaching first-year writing and tutoring in the University Writing Center. I graduated from Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) in 2015 with my degree in Professional and Technical Writing. While at SVSU, I wrote for the student newspaper, studied abroad, and tutored at the Writing Center for over two years. Becoming a part of SVSU’s Writing Center community helped me to realize my academic and career goals, so I am happy that I have the opportunity to remain a part of that writing center by working as the technical writer.

My main research interest concerns mental health within the contexts of first-year writing courses and writing centers. After I complete my MA, I want to pursue my PhD and I hope to be a writing center administrator someday. In my spare time, which I have come to treasure, I enjoy traveling, reading, visiting record stores, making jewelry, and practicing yoga and Pilates.

I am looking forward to learning more about visual rhetoric and experiencing this course with all of you!

Glossary Terms (1/23)

Studium: Barthes defines studium as the general effect or interest a photograph leaves on its spectator – “a kind of general enthusiastic commitment… but without special acuity” (Barthes, 26). It often supplies some form of context, be it political, cultural, historical, or the like. Barthes claims the studium displays the photographer’s intentions. [js]

Punctum: Barthes defines punctum as an element of a photograph that “breaks,” or punctures, the studium – “a detail i.e., a partial object” (Barthes, 43). The punctum has an expansive quality, evoking the spectator to add something of her/his own imagination to the photograph. It may be an item of clothing, or a particular expression, or some other part of a photograph – either way, it is not coded like the studium and is not an intentional aspect. [js]

Reading Question: Barthes (1/23)

Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Translated by Richard Howard, New York, Hill and Wang, 1980, p. 56.

Examining this photograph, Barthes argues that Queen Victoria sitting regally on the horse is the studium because it is the “historical interest” that draws in the viewer and leaves a general impression of liking or disliking the photograph (57). He also argues that the Scotsman holding the bridle is the punctum because this detail “‘brings out’ the Victorian nature,” though this nature is not named (57).

I’ve struggled with these two terms–studium and punctum–throughout Camera Lucida because I am unsure of their origins. The way Barthes identifies the elements of the photograph above seems to imply that studium and punctum simply exist, and have been captured by the photographer. Studium and punctum are supplied and/or created by the photograph itself. Other excerpts from the book seem to support this argument.

Yet, I can’t help but think that studium and punctum are much more subjective than Barthes is articulating and illustrating here. For instance, if someone could not place the woman on the horse in her historical context, he might not be drawn into the photograph, or if he focused on other detail than the holding of the horse’s bridle, the photograph’s punctum would be different. Earlier in Camera Lucida, Barthes even mentions that he interprets photographs with his studium (28), which suggests that viewers, or spectators, are the ones that bring studium and punctum to a given photo. These two concepts are created through an individual viewing and interpretation of a photograph.

With these two conflicting interpretations, I’m left with the following question (that I had throughout the entire first part of Camera Lucida): Where are studium and punctum located in the photo-viewing interaction? I.e. Who/what creates a photograph’s studium and punctum?



Shari’s Bio

Hello All,
My name is Shari and this is my 2nd semester at Eastern Michigan. I live in Novi with my husband and two kids who are both seniors. One is a senior at the University of Michigan and studying mechanical engineering while my daughter is a senior in high school. I’m an EMU alumnus, I received my master’s degree in Educational Psychology in the early nineties and I have over 25 years of teaching experience. I am currently employed at Washtenaw Community College.
I am very excited to be with you all as I know many of you from last semester and we had a lot of fun studying Phaedrus in WRTG 503. I also know some of you from WRTG 500 where we researched every archive available in Writing Studies together. Some of you are new but I am assuming we all are in the same field: teaching freshman composition.