When Strangers Meet – S12 – Stark

You are reading Georg Simmel’s “The Adventurer,” to be handed out in class. Your reading responses are due by email to me at 4pm on Jan 31.


-Cite one idea or sentence from the text that you find useful, clarifying, or inspiring and say a bit about why.

-Cite one idea or sentence from the text that you find confusing or disagree with and say a bit about why.

I really identified with this reading. I feel this way because I just came back from a 5 month backpacking trip through Central and South America. Well, I say I “just” came back, but it was March-August of 2011. His definition of an adventure really made me think about how much of an adventure my trip actually was. I felt like I didn’t have any time to absorb what my 5 month trip actually was, since I had to come straight to my first semester of grad school at ITP. “More precisely, the most general form of adventure is its dropping out of the continuity of life.” I felt like that really was exactly describing what I did — I quit my job of 5-6 years and gave up everything to go on this grand, once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully not) trip. It was perfect timing for me to be reading this. It clarified a lot about what it actually could be seen as: an adventure in my life.

I had to disagree, though on the quote, “The obscurities of fate are certainly no more transparent to him (the adventurer) than to others; but he proceeds as if they were.”  I don’t think that, if I were to be this adventurer, I would proceed so boldly and conceitedly as if I knew the obscurities of fate at all… I maybe just don’t understand what he is trying to say, here.

[UPDATED 2/14:]

The Barthes reading “Camera  Lucida” was a bit hard for me to understand without rereading every paragraph at least once or twice. But once I understood, I appreciated his very in-depth thought process, however difficult for me it was to follow it. I thought that this writing was very subjective, with so much use of “I”, and rightly so.

When he decides to name this interest in a photograph in general, as studium, and what disturbs his studium as punctum, I identified with what he was saying, since finding that punctum in a photograph was what I did for a living, editing for 5+ years at Magnum. That’s why, when I read further on the the crossed-out part of the hand-out that he did not find, what I believe to be one of Meiselas’ famous Nicaraguan photographs, to have punctum, I was very taken aback because it is widely recognized (the whole body of that work, that is) as some of the best photojournalism from that decade. It won Meiselas a Robert Capa Gold Medal Award… So I found it very familiar to encounter this kind of subjectivity regarding what draws people to a photograph/how powerful a photograph is, but at the same time, very surprising that he in particular did not find any punctum in it. I found myself asking, how could he not? But later on, the last point about punctum he raises, is what quells my suspicions of his “taste”. He says, “whether or not it is triggered, it is an addition: it is what I add to the photograph and what is nonetheless already there.” The punctum we find in photographs is enhanced because of its pensive quality, and therefore requires introspection, and I appreciated his take on this very concept. It made me think of my favorite Sontag writing On Photography and the quote within “to collect photographs is to collect the world.”