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

4.4 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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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: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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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I had previously tried to read "Empire of Signs" by the same author, but gave up. I found it incomprehensible. Not only does Barthes seem to have his own private meanings for many words, but he combines them in peculiar ways as if he also has his own grammar.

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.
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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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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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By Hannah on 23 Nov. 2015
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For anyone deciding whether to buy this or not, aparently it's supposed to be a mandatory read for amateur photographers and above (according to my lecturer!) The langauge is very complicated, more complicated than Shakespeare I would say as I can't even understand a word of it, however if you have a passion, indepth knowledge & understanding of photography and the langauge I would reccomend this.
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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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