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Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 15 Jul 1993
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"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)
‘Roland Barthes' final book - less a critical essay than a suite of valedictory meditations - is his most beautiful, and most painful’ ObserverSee all Product description
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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.
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)
Perhaps the problem is mine. Surely he is saying something worthwhile, otherwise why is he so famous and so revered? Or perhaps the problem is not mine. Maybe it really is a case of "Emperor's New Clothes"?
Anyway, I figured that I"d have a better chance of understanding a book about photography, something I already know rather a lot about. I was wrong. It is written in the same dense idiosyncratic style. You could believe that he was trying to be as obscure as possible. I did understand some things he was saying in this book, which is more than I can say for the other one, but that just confirmed my suspicions about the author. When I finally figured out what he was getting at over the course of three or four pages it could invariably have been said in a sentence or two.
Add in his annoying habit of making obscure historical or philosophical references that seems only to be an attempt to establish his intellectual superiority over the reader and I can think of no good reason for reading this book, and simply cannot understand so many tributes and 4 or 5 star ratings.
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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