Camera Lucida, written by French literary theorist Roland Barthes, is arguably one of the most influential books ever published on photography. Published by Hill & Wang in 1980, this short book is also a tribute to Barthes’ late mother, Henriette.

In it, Barthes discusses a treasured snapshot taken in 1898, known as the Winter Garden Photograph. It is an image of Henriette, aged five, not published in the book. Barthes describes it as follows:

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…[1]

The Winter Garden Photograph project will mark the 40th anniversary of Camera Lucida in 2020.

It comprises two parts. The first part involves publishing a book of new contemporary photographs and text. The second part involves curating exhibitions of the work. Many of the photographs are previously unpublished and/or have not been exhibited. There is also an opportunity for the prints to go into a formal collection.

Almost 200 the world’s best-known contemporary photographers, writers, critics, curators, and art historians have been invited to contribute a photograph and accompanying text that reflects on Barthes’ unpublished snapshot of his mother for the project.

The project is directed and curated by Australian/British artist Odette England.

[1] Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1982), 92-93.

Image credit: BBC (UK)

Image credit: BBC (UK)