Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Reflections on Camera Lucida

First, the organization of the book: no titles of chapters (or sections), only numbers. But, titles in the table of contents. So each chapter cites the table of contents, like a photo has a caption. The most interesting of these is the beginning of the second Part, whose title merely cites the language of the text (or photo-like-graph) of the chapter's first sentence, "One evening..." One gets a mise-en-abyme effect of infinite citationality: no referent, no time, no narration of the process whereby Barthes discovers the photograph (which is the whole structure of the book) in the event in which he finds the photograph. The whole chapter thus interrupts the book and, like the photo itself, which cannot be pictured in the book, like his mother in the photo he finds who is only a girl and not yet his mother, and yet constitutes the whole structure of the unfolding of the text.
Second, the captions on the photos: I have to check the French edition, but I think they should be duplicated there. The captions quote the text, but never exactly. There is always distortion in captions' citing of the text, so that they function to clarify the photo in relationship to the text. But if there is an inexact citation of the text in the effort to accommodate the photo, can one really say that the captions help relate the text to the photo? For me, they disturb it.
Third, "I could do no more than await my total, undialectical death" (72): this is according to Barthes what happens when you "find" the photo, your photo. You stumble and hover on until your death, like you are already dead. But this is because indeed you have already died: the photo you find will have to be a mourning photo, a photo whereby the punctum for you shatters the image so much it buries itself in you if only because you are so absolutely ready to receive it--it is your punctum after all, your photo. When you find this, you die just as much as what you were mourning for in the photo. A real photo is a relation between two killed people, two dead people, and in that sense it cannot, must not be dialectical.
I'll thematize all this more, but I just wanted to get it out there.

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