Keeper of the Hearth: Picturing Roland Barthes’ Unseen Photograph
One of the most famous photographs in the world has never been seen. Camera Lucida (La Chambre claire), written by French literary theorist Roland Barthes, is arguably one of the world’s most influential books about photography. Published in 1980, shortly before his death, the book examines the language of photography, but just as famously, pays tribute to his mother Henriette in a treasured snapshot taken of her in 1898. While Barthes discusses it at length, he never reproduces it, and thus the image of Henriette at age 5, known as the Winter Garden photograph, does not appear in the book, but is memorably described:
“With the Photograph, we enter into flat Death. The horror is this: nothing to say about the death of one whom I love most, nothing to say about her photograph, which I contemplate without ever being able to get to the heart of it, to transform it. The only “thought” I can have is that at the end of this first death, my own death is inscribed; between the two, nothing more than waiting…”.
Marking the 40th anniversary of Camera Lucida, artist Odette England invited more than 200 photography-based artists, writers, critics, curators, and historians from around the world to contribute an image or text that considers Barthes’ unpublished snapshot of Henriette— and the nature of memory.
For more information about the project, visit wintergardenphotograph.com