AHHH...This book started off very hard to read. Barthes is extremely opinionated and obsessive with his reflection on photography in the first couple of chapters. I felt like it was wordy at times and it was hard to stay focused. He lost me in the beginning, some of the terms and theories he made didn't make sense to me. I didn't know how i was going to finish the whole book. His tone was overwhelming at times and i felt like his sentences were really dragged out.....so I took a break after the first 10 chapters...
As I continued to read, I started to understand his point of view more and the relationship between his mother and his view on photography. He definitely seemed to have a changing view on photography throughout the book. Sometimes I felt like he was putting down photographers and a little harsh but other times he gave justice and showed love for the medium....this kind of confused me to what his stance actually was.
Although he was annoying at times and I didn't agree with some of the things he said, I found myself getting more and more interested as I kept reading. I found myself agreeing with some of his reflections and thoughts. His mourning of his mother brought out why he loves photography but it also made him very harsh on a lot of photographers. I liked when he talked about the photograph, “Winter Garden”. I liked the way he explained in detail about how much it meant to him. This photograph was a movement through time for him. It was reality and clearly represented an image of his mother. He saw truth in the image. This is what drew him to photography. He says, “It would tell me what constituted that thread which drew me toward photography” (Page 73)
He also says on page 73, “I cannot reproduce the Winter Garden Photograph. It exists only for me. For you, it would be nothing but an indifferent picture…” This is one of his theories, that photographs don’t mean the same thing for everyone. I agree with this. I also found it interesting that he only chose one “true” photograph that represented his view and reflections. Why not a series of images? Why not his mother over time? I think change and time is important in photography but Barthes thinks otherwise.
I also found his view on detail very interesting. When he looks at an image he looks past the big picture or the photographers purpose or “point” (Punctum) of the photograph. For example he shows an image of a little boy with a gun up to his head, but Barthes points out the child’s bad teeth, and unclean hands. This is an extreme example where he focuses on everything but the "main point" of the photograph.
I feel like Barthes thinks "the photographer" doesn’t do much. He thinks the portrait or photograph relies on the subject and when it is taken. I don’t agree with this. I think he is unaware of the work a photographer puts in. There is much creativity and time a photograph puts into their work. It does not just rely on the subject. Some photographers can make a really boring subject, interesting!
I thought his view on color and black and white photography was interesting. He thinks black and white photography is more truthful than color. He thinks adding color is like adding an unnecessary layer to the photograph. He wants to see the photographs “own rays” created by light. He says, “Color is a coating applied later on to the original truth of the black and white photograph”. (Page 81)
I thought it was interesting how he compared light to “a sort of umbilical cord”. He also says “that has been” was possible only because of the chemists. The discovery of silver halogens that were sensitive to light made it possible.
Another thing that I found interesting in chapter 34 was when he explains what “photograph” means in Latin. I like when he gives definitions and other ways to look at things. He says it means, “Image revealed, “extracted”, “mounted”, expressed” by the action of light.
Overall, I am glad I read this book. I learned many different perspectives and views through Barthes reflections. Although I didn't agree with everything, I was able to think more about why I love photography so much. I think photography can be different for everyone and the lens every photographer looks through is different so there will obviously be different views. But it is important to understand and listen to other views to help us grow as photographers!