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Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (Vintage Classics) [Paperback]

Roland Barthes , Richard Howard
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
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Book Description

15 July 1993 Vintage Classics
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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Frequently Bought Together

Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (Vintage Classics) + On Photography + The Photograph: A Visual and Cultural History (Oxford History of Art)
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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: 13 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,654 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


"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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unique and groundbreaking 24 Nov 2009
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read for the intellectual photographer 14 Jan 2011
By JemaA
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read 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
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic in the Theory of Photography. 19 Sep 2000
By A Customer
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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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very French philosophy 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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5.0 out of 5 stars A classic 4 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A must read book (for photgrapers obvioulsy but not only).
Loved every page, Barthes is an absolute genius. Give it a try
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5.0 out of 5 stars Secret Santa 19 Jan 2014
My flat mate brought me this as secret Santa it's a really good read I read it on the train home for Christmas if you are studying a photography read this book
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Really sweet book.
Published 3 months ago by Liza
5.0 out of 5 stars present
bought for my husband who is at present studying for a honors degree and needs this for his studies online
Published 10 months ago by granny
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Photography Student Reading
I bought this in first year of my photography degree because it had been mentioned many times by tutors. Now I am in my third year and still refer to it all the time.
Published 12 months ago by goodallrounder
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
I really am happy with the book for a lovley christmas stocking present, came undamaged and quickly and I would recommend this book.
Published 13 months ago by Naomi Palman-Bailey
4.0 out of 5 stars As expected
Small book, but an interesting read. Arrived in good time and in good condition. would recommend any photography lover to read a few times or different occasions
Published 14 months ago by Nikita Heaton
5.0 out of 5 stars a milestone of photography
this book is a real milestone in the photography panorama. It gives a background regarding what is the role of photos in society.
Published 15 months ago by Claudia
4.0 out of 5 stars A philosopher's view on images more than on photographing
This book has been recommended to me to help my reflections on photography and images. It is complex and requires some elaboration effort for the practical application I am looking... Read more
Published on 12 Feb 2012 by Luca Alessandro Remotti
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Fast
The book came very quickly to my house. Overall it was a very smooth process and I would buy from them again.
Published on 8 Mar 2011 by AaronH
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