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Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 15 Jul 1993


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Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (Vintage Classics) + On Photography + Ways of Seeing (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (15 July 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099225417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099225416
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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

Product Description

Review

"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)

Book Description

‘Roland Barthes' final book - less a critical essay than a suite of valedictory meditations - is his most beautiful, and most painful’ Observer

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By inch worm on 24 Nov 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable piece of work and it is rather bleak in its implications. Barthes so often touches on the inexplicable and for many his writings are paradoxical and sometimes unapproachable. The key so often is understanding that he stands at a kind of pinnacle of polemics of the last century and many of those philosophical polemics are teasingly obtuse for the great majority of us who have come through mainstream and hopelessly over rational educations. That is not to suggest that Barthes is irrational but that he bravely ventures where many fear to tread in order to question myths that humankind takes as read.

This particular essay ventures into the debate of the death of painting that has been raging since the invention of the camera. Whilst he is not so obvious as to suggest that this is the essence of the debate he defines by implication why the photo can never replace painting. The photo unequivocally represents what it represents. And what it represents is death.That is its bleakness.It always represents the past.There is always something rather spooky about photography for this reason because it allows the return of the dead through realistic and yet at the same time spectral visual evidence i.e.not representation.

It is all too easy to be negatively critical about such a work because it is by no means easy to get a handle on it in one reading but that of course is its strength. There is much that this work could be said to embrace not least the aforesaid debate regarding the death of painting, but in addition the artificial ways in which history is constructed as well as the deconstruction of human myths.

Mythologies (Vintage Classics)
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By JemaA on 14 Jan 2011
Format: Paperback
If you're into photography, and more than "guy with camera" status, this is a must read. Barthes comments and questions what it means to be a photographer and the outcomes; photographs. Very interesting. This is not a book on how to take a photograph, or even a concise history of the art form. So don't buy it if you want to improve your skill.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By WDK on 8 Mar 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This a great text. Philosophy isn't always this concise and coherent to read. It is a little dated in some of the points it makes, but in the age of social networking I find it humbling to interpret our obsession with the still image.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas on 7 Jan 2013
Format: Paperback
this book is at the very core of photographic theory and should be one of the first points of reference for a wide variety of photographic discourses and theoretical standpoints.
it is not an easy read but is very passionately written with a heavy emphasis on 'the photograph by onlooker' rather than what a photographic may think of their own photograph.
if i had to say one thing against this book would be that when Barthes was writing there was a huge void between 'professional' and 'amateur' photography which he draws on throughout, this of course has been smashed quite impressively by the influx of the digital era, but as he wrote htis in the 1970's/80's this was not the case.

even so, this is a must read for all who have an interest in the social and theoretical implications of the photograph.
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55 of 69 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Sep 2000
Format: Paperback
Barthes wrote this book out of urge to discover the real nature of Photography. In the first part of the book he establishes his own system to do that. This system is based on two "cathegories" that Photography contains, studium and punctum. In the second part he wants to come closer to eidos, the nature of Photography. Therefor he takes one of his photographies, showing his mother as a child. Out of his emotions by this photography he builds the theory, often comparing it with another art, Film and sometimes also with Theatre. The book can also be recomended to wider public, not only philosophers, because it is written in a simple, understandable way, but is still opening some major questions regarding its subject.
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Brilliant book for anyone who takes photography seriously. The book is actually quite heart breaking, as Barthes tells the story of being faced with the painful task of ‘finding’ his late mothers essence through a collection of photographs he had of her. It is a great story and leads on to remind you just how powerful photography is.

I was curious as to why I used my camera at the hardest times in my life and this book helped me to come to a conclusion.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Ayres on 28 May 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
On first reading this book I was drawn to recall the Fawlty Towers episode where the medallion man says "Pretentious, moi?" and I wondered how you would translate that into French. On reflection I think I was a little harsh, there is some deep thought in the book on what photography means. It is just the French way of expression can sound pretentious to English ears.

I will re-read it slowly, with a good dictionary by my side, and cut through the style to get at the basic ideas. I think Barthes does have valid points to make. Photography surrounds us and is taken too much for granted with little thought. For example a video (or music) is embedded in time and you have to follow the creators time frame. Photography on the other hand is outside time, you can look at a photograph in the way you choose for as long as you want, in the same way as a painting. On the other hand photography is an aspect of a moment of reality which existed in the past, unlike a painting which is an artists interpretation of something he saw, imagined or felt.
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