Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography

Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography

Paperback

By (author) Roland Barthes, Translated by Richard Howard

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  • Publisher: VINTAGE
  • Format: Paperback | 144 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 192mm x 10mm | 100g
  • Publication date: 1 February 2006
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0099225417
  • ISBN 13: 9780099225416
  • Illustrations note: 1
  • Sales rank: 4,685

Product description

Examining the themes of presence and absence, the relationship between photography and theatre, history and death, these 'reflections on photography' begin as an investigation into the nature of photographs. Then, as Barthes contemplates a photograph of his mother as a child, the book becomes an exposition of his own mind.

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Author information

Roland Barthes was born in 1915 and studied French literarture and classics at the University of Paris. After teaching French at universities in Romania and Egypt, he joined the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, where he devoted himself to research in sociology and lexicology. He was professor at the College de France until his death in 1980.

Review quote

"Of all his works it is the most accessible in language and the most revealing about the author. And effortlessly, as if in passing, his reflections on photography raise questions and doubts which will permanently affect the vision of the reader" Guardian "I am moved by the sense of discovery in Camera Lucida, by the glimpse of a return to a lost world" New Society "Profoundly shaped the way the medium is regarded" -- Geoff Dyer Guardian

Editorial reviews

Nothing is more present or more mysterious, still, than the Photograph - so one blinks only at Barthes' assumption, at the start of these meditations on its nature, that he is doing something exceptional. More unusual, for such endeavors and for Barthes, is his directness (rendered in limpid prose by Richard Howard). What is there in certain photographs, he asks, that attracts me? The investigation, then, is subjective - no visual-arts touchstones, no socioeconomic ballast. Barthes distinguishes between a general interest in a scene, which he calls (with his penchant for coining terms) the stadium, and something "which arises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces me": the puncture. Though he errs in supposing that the punctum, in the photographs he cites, is necessarily accidental (surely the Nicaraguan nuns were as important to photographer Koen Wessing as the Nicaraguan soldiers), he exactly names the sort of detail which, from photographer to photographer, surprises: "one boy's bad teeth" in a William Klein scene of Little Italy, the dirt road in a Kertesz picture of a blind gypsy violinist ("I recognize, with my whole body, the straggling villages I passed through on my long-ago travels in Hungary and Rumania"). Other recognitions, other distinctions emerge - between "landscapes of predilection" (where one feels one has been, or is going) and tourist photographs; between erotica ("disturbed, fissured") and pornography. But it is in searching back through photographs of his mother, after her death, that Barthes arrives at the essence, for him, of photography: one childhood picture, not reproducible ("It exists only for me"), but a "just image." Grander statements appear - to the effect, for one, that photography alone authenticates existence and foretells death - but it is the emotional experience of photographs, ordinarily the preserve of fiction, that resonates here. Readers of Susan Sontag's On Photography will find Barthes a gentler, more private, also insinuating voice on the subject. (Kirkus Reviews)