Roland Barthes// Camera lucida.

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by vpwphoto, May 17, 2011.

  1. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

    Messages:
    1,203
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Location:
    Indiana
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  2. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Member

    Messages:
    2,055
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2004
    Location:
    Nicholasvill
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I haven't read it in a few years, but I remember he had very interesting philosophical concepts regarding the interpretation of symbols. If I can find my copy I will brush up and discuss it with you.
     
  3. ajmiller

    ajmiller Subscriber

    Messages:
    510
    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Location:
    North Yorkshire, UK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'd be up for this too - I referenced the book for my dissertation on 'found' photography. I've just been through my storage boxes and found my copy.

    Tony
     
  4. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

    Messages:
    1,203
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Location:
    Indiana
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Cool... class is in session.
     
  5. Michael W

    Michael W Member

    Messages:
    1,443
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2005
    Location:
    Sydney
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I read it in the '90s and thought it excellent. Just pulled out my copy a week or two back for another read.
     
  6. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

    Messages:
    594
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Location:
    Northeast U.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I have always felt terrible about it, but I've tried three times to read it and it's put me to sleep in 10 minutes each time. Maybe I'll try again...zzzZzzzzZzzzzz. :wink:
     
  7. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,194
    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2005
    Location:
    Sydney, Aust
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Many years since I read it but my recollection was of meandering and sentimental writing which I found hard to stay connected with at times. Maybe it was better in the French.
    The studium and punctum concepts got trotted out a bit in certain circles when it seemed quite trendy to reference this book and make associations to these in one's own work and to claim to be influenced by these notions. It doesn't seem quite as popular any more and perhaps a bit "old hat". Fads come and go and certain concepts go in and out of fashion. I can't say I fully "got" what he was musing about, perhaps because French philosophy, or any philosophy for that matter, is not terribly popular in Australia!
     
  8. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

    Messages:
    1,203
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Location:
    Indiana
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My favorite observation from the book.
    "Camera's are clocks for seeing."
    I wonder too if it was better in French... I can't get punctum and studium to "operate" in my mind's vocabulary.
     
  9. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,350
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    Montréal (QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I read it in the original French, and can't say I found much use for it.

    No, it's not better in the original.

    Everybody always raves on the "usefulness" of studium & punctum, but they are utterly arbitrary categories, and are not specific in any way to photographs. The punctum is a strictly subjective criterion, not a feature of a photograph, and the studium is just the rest. You could apply that same analysis to a painting.

    I much prefer the films of Chris Marker when I need an articulate reflexion on the power of images, memory, and death. As for Barthes, his best work remains Mythologies because it precedes his obscure semiological period, is relatively light on pseudoscientific cogitations, and its generalizations still pass for insight, not decrees.
     
  10. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

    Messages:
    1,203
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Location:
    Indiana
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    ... I'm going to digest this the rest of the week.

    Shall I start a "group for this class"?
     
  11. ajmiller

    ajmiller Subscriber

    Messages:
    510
    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Location:
    North Yorkshire, UK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yes, but Barthes was discussing photography in CL so in this context it is specific to photographs.
    Also the 'punctum' is a feature of a photograph - that's exactly what he was saying - it's the feature that strikes him most. In the example he gives in chapter 19 it is the belt of the girl that arouses some kind of sympathy in him. Agree with you it's a 'subjective' element but isn't that what we all bring to a photograph, our own reasons for liking it or been affected by it?

    As to Tony's comment about CL been seen as 'old hat' - it was required reading at Uni for me a couple of years ago - as was Sontag, Burgin et al.
     
  12. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,128
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I've been avoiding it, but thanks to this thread I went to the library and got it out. It really is poorly written and organized. I have to say, I really started to lose interest when he started blurbling on about his discovery that he liked some photos and not others. Perhaps it's not a big deal, but I did notice that an error in a description of one of the photos, which makes me go all frowny-face. I think it is going to back unfinished.
     
  13. TSSPro

    TSSPro Member

    Messages:
    229
    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Location:
    Carbondale,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My specific program doesnt require it, but you cant get by without knowing Barthes.

    As for the subjectivity aspect of the photograph's reading, well...yes, you have to be subjective. I think that references back to Barthes' essay "Death of the Author," too. Just as Barthes argued for the reinterpretation of works as time progresses for the written word, so too it can be applied to the photograph. Every generation, and every iteration of critique will change based on the innumerable influences swirling around at the time of that specific reading/critique.

    I am a big fan of Barthes' work. He went from being a died in the wool structuralist/modernist thinker to being one of the scholars that ushered in post-modernism and the post-modern critical view of art.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,350
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    Montréal (QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    And he finished his life as a died-in-the-wool structuralist, having been run over by a truck because he forgot to notice a stop sign...
     
  16. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

    Messages:
    1,203
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Location:
    Indiana
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    HEY!!! Some of the posts since lunch are germane to this conversation, and some are going down paths I do not want to go down.
    I do NOT want to become like the Sherman thread. We are talking about the book, not the validity, or anything else.
    IF you CHOOSE to participate in this thread keep it to the subject at hand and NOT a critique of the validity or editing or your opinion of the writing style/content of the book Camera Lucida.

    Was Barthes really run over by a truck?
     
  17. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

    Messages:
    1,203
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Location:
    Indiana
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    "Clocks for seeing{" is one of the most poetic and resonating things I took from my first fitfull read of the book. I wonder now what could be said about the latent image vs the CF card. For me I feel film and the latent image are like a "vault for seeing". I don't think a CF card is the same.
    Perhaps I feel the latent image is a "molecular whitness" yes quote me on that a molecular whitness to time.
     
  18. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

    Messages:
    1,203
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Location:
    Indiana
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    David... you have sparked my interest in reading yet more.
    This is off subject but I recently discovered for myself Ayn Rand.
    I wish I could go back to my undergraduate days.
     
  19. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

    Messages:
    1,051
    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2010
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Camera Lucida - Semiotics of Photography developed in Rodinal :cool:
     
  20. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,128
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Actually, in discussing a book, style and organization are fair game. If an author can't present their ideas clearly, that indicates to me that they likely aren't thinking about them clearly. So why should I waste my time?

    Is this the subject at hand?
     
  21. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

    Messages:
    1,203
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Location:
    Indiana
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have been reading further and find the life of Barthes germane to this discussion. (I did a check of his Biography and found indeed he was run over by a truck, I have greater respect for his pursuit and examination of this magical craft because of the events surrounding his writting of CL)
    His sentimental observations of the frozen past within a photograph, I found today, is very much what does and always has motivated me to photograph through the years. As a professional I may not be motivated personally by the history I am preserving for the client, but I am motivated by my duty to do it well, and provide intersting studium to viewers to be captivated by in the future.

    The act of preserving time is at it's heart what makes me happiest photographing, meerly providing intersting punctum for the casual observer is not what ultimatly drives me to do my best work. (Although it does earn me a living).
     
  22. ntenny

    ntenny Member

    Messages:
    2,282
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2008
    Location:
    San Diego, C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I posted a sort of review of this book a while ago after reading it for the first time. I felt like he ran into some fairly basic limitations in his relationship to photography, e.g., he kind of fluffs the distinction between the photograph and a "capture of reality", but for the most part I found myself wanting him to explore the ideas more deeply. I hate to say this about an intellect of Barthes's scale, but from the perspective of a photographer I think it's kind of a superficial analysis.

    From the perspective of a "naive" observer it may be much richer. The real point is personal and sentimental, and maybe I'm being unfair by bringing a specifically photographic set of expectations to the table when Barthes is really writing largely about his own relationship to the past.

    -NT
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 19, 2011
  23. ajmiller

    ajmiller Subscriber

    Messages:
    510
    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Location:
    North Yorkshire, UK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The book is written from his perspective as a 'spectator' and as a 'spectrum' - the first being someone who looks at photographs and the second as one who is photographed. He doesn't claim to be an 'operator' (photographer) and in fact states he can't "join the troupe of those........ who deal with photography-according-to-the-photographer".
    This is an interesting point with regard to Vincents statement about "meerly providing intersting punctum for the casual observer is not what ultimatly drives me to do my best work. (Although it does earn me a living)."
    The punctum is not necessarily the subject of a photograph. The punctum, as I read it, is some minor detail that 'punctures' one - that is, it grabs our attention first and maybe leads us into the rest of the photograph. The punctum of the photograph in chapter 19, I mentioned before, is the belt of the girl - not the main point of the photograph - it's a portrait of a family - but what takes Barthes attention. I don't go out to make photographs with a 'punctum' - that idea is in the eyes of the viewer (the spectator) I think.
     
  24. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Member

    Messages:
    1,203
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2011
    Location:
    Indiana
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks AJ for your insights.

    Taking this a little further. Is the digital photograph as it exists on a LCD monitor vs it as a paper copy; like a traditional photograph, part of what makes me and many feel differently about the information and subjects being presented?

    I feel when a photograph is presented as a fleeting image on a screen is looses it's value as a window in time. At least for me.
     
  25. limnides

    limnides Member

    Messages:
    20
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2011
    Location:
    Whitley Bay,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think it's worth noting that Barthes didn't claim to have extensive knowledge of photography - this is a book in memoriam of his mother, after he discovered a photograph of her and made a connection with the medium and the Punctum he speaks about.

    I hope I haven't revived a thread that was meant to fall naturally off the board, but Barthes and this book in particular touched me. I haven't read it in a few months, though, so I'm a bit rusty about some of the finer details (I'm planning on re-reading it in the coming days, though.) I would really be interested in this thread if it's something wanted to be kept alive. :smile:
     
  26. TSSPro

    TSSPro Member

    Messages:
    229
    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Location:
    Carbondale,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    This is a fundamental issue with a lot of image making and cinema, too. Christian Metz wrote about this as well. He referred to the photograph as the "embalming of time." The photograph becomes a fetishized object. Not in the sexual sense, but in the fundamental sense. It is fetish because is serves as a replacement for something else, in the case of the photograph, reality. It replaces the person, or the subject of the photograph because of its association to the viewer. Barthes' punctum helps facilitate this fetish and correlation between photograph and reality.