The Portrait: Photography and Memory - Barthes

Camera obscura (Latin: “dark room”).  An apparatus illustrated on the left  that enables an image to be projected onto a surface inside a light-sealed chamber and then traced. It was used by artists in 17th-century Europe and led to the development of photography.


The camera lucida on the right performs an optical superimposition of the subject being viewed upon the surface upon which the artist is drawing. This allows the artist to duplicate key points of the scene on the drawing surface, thus aiding in the accurate rendering of perspective.



This page mainly supports the second reading assignment, chapters twelve - twenty though there is overlap with other reading assignments. Remember the reading and assignments are due the week after they are assigned.




The work of Nicephore Niepce exists at the very beginning of photography in the early nineteenth century. The photograph to the right is thought to be one of the very first photochemical process images. He is mentioned on page thirty.


Louis Daguerre took Niepce's invention and perfected it with the daguerrotype. By the mid-nineteenth century to have one's daguerrotype taken was a sign that you had "arrived". That's Daguerre in the upper left hand corner. Daguerre is mentioned on page thirty-one.



The photograph of Edger Allen Poe is a good example of the daguerrotype. A process that was superseded by other photochemical processes in 1860. "Quoth the raven, nevermore." Unlike practitioners of Niepce's  invention who emulated landscape and still life paintings, photographers using this process often set up portrait studios. 



An excellent article that looks back at the career of Robert Mapplethorpe is here.  Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids chronicles their relationship in the late 60's and early 70s. An article about their relationship and photography is here.    Robert Mapplethorpe is first mentioned on page thirty then again on page forty-one. The (reversed) self-portrait above is on page fifty-nine as  Barthes continues writing about the difference between eroticism and pornography.


The "blind field" as Barthes has it is something suggested by the punctum outside of the frame. The idea is critiqued here.  



The Francis Apesteguy photograph Barthes refers to in the text is to the left. (The woman survived.) The "decisive instant" Barthes mentions on page 33 is better known as the decisive moment. A term coined by the famous French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.  Apasteguy's work comes out of his practice as a paparazzi. See his photos below.  Page thirty-three.

Harold Edgerton is also mentioned on page 33. Edgerton was an engineer who pioneered techniques of stroboscopic high-speed photography. Barthes apparently does not think much of his work though it is technically quite amazing. Also page thirty-three.








An article about the work of Germaine Krull is here. A bit about her biography is here. Also page thirty-three.


An article about Andre Kertesz is here. Hungarians were at the forefront of the modernist impulse in twentieth century photography. Also page thirty-three.







An interview with William Klien is here. On pages thirty-three and forty-three. The Klien photograph Barthes references is on page forty-six.


Some of Duane Michal's work is here.  His more recent work is focused on sequences of photographs that tell or imply a narrative.  The photograph referenced on page 43 of Andy Warhol in 1958 is below.



A bit about Avedon's long career is here.  A New York Times article about a recent retrospective is here.  The portrait of William Casby, above, appears on page thirty-four and is discussed on page seventy-nine as part of our fourth and final Barthes reading. 


The American Masters documentary about Richard Avedon is here.



A short video about Bruce Gilden is here.  He's either a brilliant photographer or an opportunistic asshole and maybe both, depending on who you talk to. His work is mentioned on page forty-seven as part of our fourth reading assignment.