Archives for posts with tag: camera lucida

I have been catching up on some reading starting with 7 Days In The Art World by Sarah Thornton.

I’ve also been reading Magarat Olin’s Touching Photographs. Orlin writes about  Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida  and gives some very interesting insights.

Beautiful Losers a film which was screened a couple of weeks ago at Empty Shop HQ; raises issues around validation and shows how counter culture once it develops past a certain point is assimilated by main stream culture.

A short film on the Guardian newspapers website continues on from that thread with the  ICA’s  new exhibition A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now which focuses on  counter/club culture of the 1980′s-2000 and the creativity that came out of those counter cultures.



While I was at the Baltic Artist’s Book Fair artist Rachel Gibson suggested I read Roland Barthe’s ‘Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography’ (1981).

A free PDF of the book can be found online by clicking HERE

I found the book thought provoking, especially as it was written prior to the advent of digital photography.

In his book Barthes remarks that cameras were “clocks for seeing”; that cameras were prior to digital technology they were purely clockwork mechanisms.

Digital cameras were not widely available before 1990.Many pre digital camera types such as box cameras and TLRs (twin lens reflex cameras e.g.: Rolleiflex, Mayami, and Bonica etc.) did not even require batteries.

Barthes refers to the sound of these pre digital cameras:

“For me the noise of Time is not sad: I love bells, clocks, watches — and I recall that at first photographic implements were related to techniques of cabinet making and the machinery of precision: cameras, in short, were clocks for seeing, and perhaps in me someone very old still hears in the photographic mechanism the living sound of the wood.” (p.15)

For Barthes photographs were physical and temporal objects.

“ The only way I can transform the photograph is into refuse: either the draw or the waste basket. Not only does it commonly have the fate of paper (perishable), but even if it is attached to more lasting supports, it is still mortal: a living organism, it is born on the level of the sprouting silver grains, it flourishes a moment, then ages…Attacked by light, by humidity, it fades, weakens, vanishes; there is nothing left to do but throw it away.” (p.93)

Barthes continues:

“Earlier societies managed so that memory, the substitute for life, was eternal and that at least the thing which spoke death should itself be immortal: this was the Monument. But by making the (mortal) Photograph into the general and somehow natural witness of “what has been”, modern society has renounced the Monument.”(p.93)

While the arrival of digital technologies and the availability of cloud storage the mortality of the photograph is no longer a given. Though, conversely neither is the survival of the photograph as a physical object as an aid to memory, as a memento, a nostalgic object to be rediscovered again after several years lying forgotten in a box.

I wonder with memory no longer necessarily tied to temporal physical objects such as a photographic print kept in a box or wallet if there will be a change in the ways we experience our remembrances and nostalgia.

I have also been dipping into ‘Memory, Trauma and History: Essays on Living with the Past’ by Michael S. Roth

In the chapter ‘Why Freud Haunts Us’ Michael Roth discusses the idea of whether or not the need for our memory of the past may become superfluous. Roth refers to a field of neuroscience which argues we have moved in to an epoch:

“…when “making sense of ourselves and our past” has little relevance to reality, as privacy on the web, psychosomatic erectile dysfunction, or depression as a sensible response to the world.” (p.122)

Roth continues that a particular field of neuroscience then goes further to claim that by no longer trying to understand ourselves through our pasts we may become “liberated from history”(p.123).

With the current ubiquetous nature of photography e.g. mobile phones, (Instagrams), digital cameras which upload images directly to Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter etc it must challenge our previous understanding of how our personal histories (and history in general) is both experienced and understood in relation to the lived body.