Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes
Elevator – Miami Beach, by Robert Frank. Barthes argued that a Punctum must always be an accident, unseen by the photographer. How then could Robert Frank have produced an entire book in which virtually every image pierces the soul?
I doubt if any book about photography has been more thoroughly dissected than Camera Lucida.
I have no illusion that I can add anything significant to the body of work on this small volume. It is a safe bet to say that for every one of the 119 pages in Roland Barthes’ brief volume, hundreds of pages have already been written.
Two recent and worthwhile volumes are Photography Degree Zero, edited by Geoffrey Batchen, which contains 14 often challenging essays on the book and James Elkins’ What Photography is, which is more of a counterpoint, rather than an analysis of Camera Lucida.
There is more than enough material for anyone who wants to plumb the depths of critical analysis of Camera Lucida.
Rather than attempt to add anything to what has already been written, I have concluded that I would do best by suggesting that simply reading Camera Lucida and enjoying it without obsessing over every detail can be a rewarding and enlightening option.
There is something to be said for just joining Barthes as he takes the reader on his deeply personal journey to “learn at all costs what Photography” is in itself, and “by what essential feature it was to be distinguished from the community of images.” Continue reading