Draw her a moustache | Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem

Draw her a moustache

Published on

What is the power of a photo? Does it only give us a loyal presentation of reality, or can it crack its surface and present the hidden truth behind?

It is a debatable question among theoreticians since the invention of photography. Photography as known pushed aside the figurative drawing and caused a crisis from which evolved the abstract and conceptual art. The very toiling action of imitating reality with drawing, lasted a long time, was replaced with the capacity of a camera to create a loyal presentation of reality in one click. This process was accelerated with the invention of the cellphone, and the amount of the photos created in the last years is higher than those created since the beginning of the 120 century.

But Roulan Barth- one of the fathers of French Structuralism- claims in his book "Thoughts about Photography", that photos flooding the daily newspapers and magazines, internet sights, are generic, plain and boring since they are made in premediated known structures. This kind of photography that supply a visual information and no more, can teach us the characteristics of a location, spirit of the time etc.- called by Barth "Studium".

In search of the essence of photography, Barth is looking for a photo that will interest him and provide him with adventure. This type of photo will be called "Punctum". The punctum as if piercing the overt reality and raise to the surface its concealed element that usually attached to sexuality and death. Barth identifies the punctum in photos of war sights and of those who are condemned to death, and also in homo-erotic photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe. The photo of the punctum is a non-expectable event that cannot be foreseen or planned by the photographer or by the photographed. Similar to the appearance of the unconscious in a daily life, it can be pointed at only in retrospect, after happening.


Photpgraphed by Koby Gideon LTD

Had Barth was alive today, it is almost certain that he would see in the photo of prime Minister Netanyahu and the German Chancellor, Engela Merkel, a precise example of punctum. Among thousands of generic photos of government press agency, that documents wearingly, diplomatic meetings- like this photo of Netanyahu and the president of the USA Barak Obama-this one sticks out for its uniqueness, by scraping the horrific past between Israel and Germany. The shadow of Netanyahu's lifted up finger drew a small moustache on top of Merkel's lips, that reminds Hitler's moustache. The photo undermines the theme of "the New Germany", that can be treated just like any other country, and therefore we can establish diplomatic relations and do business with her. Through the random diplomatic meeting burst out the ghosts of the past, that will not give a rest to Israel nor Germany.


Photograph: AFP

In the Department of Visual and Material Culture we will learn the philosophy of photography in particular and the philosophy of the image in general.


Proph. Dror Pimental
Lecturer at the Department of Visual and Material Culture