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Abstract

We experience photographs both as intentional and as prone to the accidental. The photograph is both capable of being an artwork with its own, constructed world and of drawing our attention to the reality of the objects used in creating it. In this article I employ the insights contained in the concepts of Barthes’ studium and punctum in order to explore how the artist’s intentions and the realism of photography interact aesthetically. I advance the idea that a unique aesthetics of photography can be rooted in the tension between the intentional, culturally coded message of a photograph and the emanation of a reality that escapes intentional control. Our aesthetic experiences of the artist’s intentions and the appearance of the real depend upon and enhance each other. I claim that the photographer can intentionally allow the accidental, leaving room for the audience to encounter a punctum, and that the control manifested in the photographer's work can serve to heighten the experience of the penetration of the studium by the punctum when it occurs.

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