My phenomenology agreed to compromise with a power, affect; affect was what I
didn’t want to reduce; being irreducible, it was thereby what I wanted, what I ought
to reduce the Photograph to; but could I retain an affective intentionality, a view of
the object that was immediately steeped in desire, repulsion, nostalgia, euphoria?
roland BarthEs, Camera Lucida
sincE its puBlication in 1979 and English translation in 1981, Camera
Lucida has become one of the most widely cited works on photography.1
Writing after Barthes, many photo critics have grappled with the
cations of a phenomenology, ontology, and ideology of photography—
while skirting in sometimes telling ways the “affective intentionality” that,
for Barthes, lies at the heart of photography. But as this epigraph shows,
Barthes keenly grasped the complexities of feeling photography. When it
comes to photography, Barthes confessed, “I have determined to be guided
by the consciousness of my feelings.”2 As Shawn Michelle Smith notes in
chapter 1 of this volume, Barthes “felt photography.” He did so, however,
in ways that were so subtle that it has taken a long time to recognize fully
the nuances of his insight, captured in this elegant passage, on the links be-
tween feeling and photography.3
That we feel photography can hardly be doubted. Photography excites
a spectrum of feelings: faced with a violent image, you may respond with
both horror and pity. The portrait you carry in your wallet may be of your be-
loved, whom you cherish. The photograph on your desk reminds you of one
you’ve lost and may always mourn. Yet despite the myriad ways of feeling
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