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Description - Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

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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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099225416
ISBN-10: 0099225417
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 11mm)
Pages: 144
Imprint: Vintage Classics
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 15-Jul-1993
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

Book Reviews - Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

US Kirkus Review » 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)


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Author Biography - Roland Barthes

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.