art 2840 reading 2

Our second reading assignment is from Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes. This is a very serious piece, partially attributed to its being written after the death of his mother. I feel that maybe he takes photography too seriously but maybe he would argue that I don’t take it seriously enough. I know that I was at once struck by the sentiments of the opening paragraph in his amazement at a photograph of Napoleon’s brother:
“I am looking at eyes that looked at the Emperor.”
When I look at old photographs, I feel lots of little questions tugging at my mind: What is the context? What is this person feeling? What would it be like to live through this time? Is this candid or posed? But it had never occured to me to consider what their eyes had seen.
Another piece that particularly caught me was a section lamenting over posing. He realises his body is making itself into something that it would not were he unaware of the camera. Making what you see in the mirror match up with a piece of paper isn’t always possible and I can understand his frustration. You’ll never realise how fat you are till you see yourself in a photograph because it tells the truth (in some cases) in ways that a mirror and scale can’t but at the same time your posed photo self is still only an imitation of the self you want to project. It all becomes very complicated and intriguing.

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