According to Jean-Michel Rabate, Camera Lucida was “a moving autobiographical disclosure of his love for his mother under the guise of a study of photography.” (Rabate 1997: 3)

For Barthes, a photograph contains “signs” within its frame that can be defined through an analytical process (such as iconic, indexical and symbolic), and that these can be deciphered, interpreted and/or read by the viewer. When looking at a photograph, through this analysis (and others) we can decide on its truth, its nature, its veracity of what is the thing in itself.

“In the Photograph, the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation” (Barthes 1980: 89).

What I feel that Barthes is alluding to here is that we are informed by our subjective interpretation of a photograph and that our relationship to the image is defined by the context/s of how and where we are looking at the photography (a gallery, a book, an advert), and possibly our pre-conceived information that we know before seeing it. Does the photograph conform to our perceived expectation of reality, or does the information it contains offer new insights into our own perceptions?

“The Photograph does not necessarily say what is no longer, but only and for certain what has been” (Barthes 1980: 85)

I have presented a photograph of my bookshelf in my home. These are books that I and my partner own, and which the viewer may recognise and also own themselves. They are not the actual books, as they are a representation of the books and the bookshelf. They present a world of my house, a specific place and a perspective on the type of person who would own these books. They give information and present reality. But are they a truth, as the assumptions the viewer would make would be drawn from how they reacted to this photograph, their own relationship to the books and the various signs contained within?

“Barthes always wanted to understand history” Rabate 1997, 1).

I feel that Barthes is correct in his assumption that “authentication exceeds the power of representation” as we approach viewing more from how we perceive the signs and information contains over what the actual representation holds. The meaning and relationship if, possibly, first defined by whether we believe something to authenticate, and therefore historical, over what it represents.


BARTHES, Roland. 1980. Camera Lucida. edn. 2000. Vintage.

RABATE, Jean-Michel. 2012. Writing the Image After Roland Barthes. [online]. Open WorldCat. Available at: [Also] LINK to Google Books (accessed 4 Feb 2019)

DUCKWORTH. A.R.. 2008. Influential Theorists: Andre Bazin – The Ontology Of The Photographic Image. [online] Available at:   (accessed 4 Feb 2020).

To Read

BAZIN, Andre, and Hugh Gray. The Ontology of the Photographic Image. Film Quarterly, vol. 13, no. 4, July 1960, pp. 4–9. (Crossref), doi:10.1525/fq.1960.13.4.04a00030.