"In Camera Lucida, his magisterial rumination on photography, Roland Barthes developed the notion of the "punctum." The punctum, Barthes wrote, is the aspect of a photographic image that "pricks" or touches us, stops us short or jolts us. The punctum can be may things, but it is always the point of the image, whether or not intended by its maker. It can be as ineffable as a sigh or as blatant as a mountain. It is that elusive something that one might define by saying, "I know it when I see it." The intelligent photographer will always recognize and honor it, even if, as most frequently happens, it just drops into the picture.
The punctum is related, or at least not unrelated, to James Joyce's idea of the epiphany, that sudden "revelation of the whatness of a thing, the moment in which the soul of the commonest object...seems to us radiant." We might say therefore, that it is related closely to the soul of the image..."
~ Gerry Badger, The Pleasures of Good Photographs
So few photographs have that something that draws you back, over and over. Whether it's the color combination of a subject, or a repeating pattern, or a composition, it is magnetic and enticing and alluring. As a photographer, I love that moment when I look at a picture I just shot and know that it is the one.
If you like photography, this was a great read.