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on 20 May 2017
Difficult book saying serious things.
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on 5 November 2014
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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on 1 May 2016
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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on 24 November 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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on 7 January 2013
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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on 14 January 2011
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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on 28 May 2011
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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on 19 September 2000
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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on 14 February 2015
Being a photography student I am currently using this to link to my essay. Barthes is very difficult to understand. Good size, good delivery!
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on 12 February 2012
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 for. It is striking that Barthes is not a photographer himself, but takes the position of the viewer of photographs. I still have to elaborate the relationship between the viewer's position proposed by Barthes and the intention of the photographer on the other side of the camera.
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