In the Photographic Message (1961), Roland Barthes approaches photography from Semiology, through denotative and connotative codes, the latter necessarily bound to culture. “Signification is a dialectic process that solves the contradiction between natural and cultural man”. In this process the paradox of photography is presented, where an inert object is converted into language.
It is notable that Barthes liberates himself from the semiotic approach from previous work to try and understand photography’s revelatio. Camera Lucida shows us the path of this adventure – personally and culturally loaded – and at the same time points out the limitations of theories originating in linguistics in approaching the photograpic image. Death permeates the work and, I don’t know if by chance, Barthes was killed by a laundry truck while crossing the street, the year Camera Lucida was published.
Barthes, Roland, Chambre Clair, Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1980.
Barthes, Roland,Le message photographique, in Communications 1, (?), Paris, 1961
*This article was originally written in Portuguese in the context of Art History. This post is the first English version, written in 2014. It was originally published on the blog Photography as Device [PAD] a On photography: Until “Camera Lucida” 1961-1980. That blog is no longer maintained.
The English tittle “Camera Lucida” is misleading, as it specifies indicates a device instead of a concept.