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Basic Critical Theory for Photographers by Ashley la Grange

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4 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

Part One

1. Specialty of the Photograph

On seeing an 1852 photograph of Napoleon’s youngest brother, Barthes was amazed to realise that he was ‘. . . looking at eyes that looked at the Emperor’. (p. 3). No one seemed to share his amazement and he became interested in photography in opposition to the Cinema, overcome by the desire to understand what was the ‘essential feature’ that separated photography from other images.

2. The Photograph Unclassifiable

Barthes feels that attempts to classify photographs in terms professional/amateur, subject matter or movements fail because they are external to the subject and can be applied to other, older types of images. However, the photograph mechanically makes infinite something ...

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