Geoffrey Batchen

Geoffrey Batchen is Professor of the History of Photography and Contemporary Art at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author of Burning with Desire: The Conceptions of Photography (1999) and Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History (2002), both published by the MIT Press.

  • Photography Degree Zero

    Photography Degree Zero

    Reflections on Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida

    Geoffrey Batchen

    An essential guide to an essential book, this first anthology on Camera Lucida offers critical perspectives on Barthes's influential text.

    Roland Barthes's 1980 book Camera Lucida is perhaps the most influential book ever published on photography. The terms studium and punctum, coined by Barthes for two different ways of responding to photographs, are part of the standard lexicon for discussions of photography; Barthes's understanding of photographic time and the relationship he forges between photography and death have been invoked countless times in photographic discourse; and the current interest in vernacular photographs and the ubiquity of subjective, even novelistic, ways of writing about photography both owe something to Barthes. Photography Degree Zero, the first anthology of writings on Camera Lucida, goes beyond the usual critical orthodoxies to offer a range of perspectives on Barthes's important book.

    Photography Degree Zero (the title links Barthes's first book, Writing Degree Zero, to his last, Camera Lucida) includes essays written soon after Barthes's book appeared as well as more recent rereadings of it, some previously unpublished. The contributors' approaches range from psychoanalytical (in an essay drawing on the work of Lacan) to Buddhist (in an essay that compares the photographic flash to the mystic's light of revelation); they include a history of Barthes's writings on photography and an account of Camera Lucida and its reception; two views of the book through the lens of race; and a provocative essay by Michael Fried and two responses to it. The variety of perspectives included in Photography Degree Zero, and the focus on Camera Lucida in the context of photography rather than literature or philosophy, serve to reopen a vital conversation on Barthes's influential work.

    • Hardcover $29.95 £25.00
    • Paperback $24.95 £20.00
  • Each Wild Idea

    Each Wild Idea

    Writing, Photography, History

    Geoffrey Batchen

    Essays on photography and the medium's history and evolving identity.

    In Each Wild Idea, Geoffrey Batchen explores a wide range of photographic subjects, from the timing of the medium's invention to the various implications of cyberculture. Along the way, he reflects on contemporary art photography, the role of the vernacular in photography's history, and the Australianness of Australian photography. The essays all focus on a consideration of specific photographs—from a humble combination of baby photos and bronzed booties to a masterwork by Alfred Stieglitz. Although Batchen views each photograph within the context of broader social and political forces, he also engages its own distinctive formal attributes. In short, he sees photography as something that is simultaneously material and cultural. In an effort to evoke the lived experience of history, he frequently relies on sheer description as the mode of analysis, insisting that we look right at—rather than beyond—the photograph being discussed. A constant theme throughout the book is the question of photography's past, present, and future identity.

    • Hardcover $60.00 £50.00
    • Paperback $34.95 £28.00
  • Burning with Desire

    Burning with Desire

    The Conception of Photography

    Geoffrey Batchen

    In an 1828 letter to his partner, Nicéphore Niépce, Louis Daguerre wrote, "I am burning with desire to see your experiments from nature." In this book, Geoffrey Batchen analyzes the desire to photograph as it emerged within the philosophical and scientific milieus that preceded the actual invention of photography. Recent accounts of photography's identity tend to divide between the postmodern view that all identity is determined by context and a formalist effort to define the fundamental characteristics of photography as a medium. Batchen critiques both approaches by way of a detailed discussion of photography's conception in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He examines the output of the various nominees for "first photographer," then incorporates this information into a mode of historical criticism informed by the work of Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. The result is a way of thinking about photography that persuasively accords with the medium's undeniable conceptual, political, and historical complexity.

    • Hardcover $50.00 £40.00
    • Paperback $44.95 £38.00

Contributor

  • The "Public" Life of Photographs

    The "Public" Life of Photographs

    Thierry Gervais

    An exploration of the relationship between how photographs are made available to the public and how they are received and understood.

    Do we understand a photograph differently if we encounter it in a newspaper rather than a book? In a photo album as opposed to framed on a museum wall? The “Public” Life of Photographs explores how the various ways that photographs have been made available to the public have influenced their reception. The reproducibility of photography has been the necessary tool in the creation of a mass visual culture. This generously illustrated book explores historical instances of the “public” life of photographic images—tracing the steps from the creation of photographs to their reception.

    The contributors—international curators and scholars from a range of disciplines—examine the emergence of photography as mass culture: through studios and public spaces; by the press; through editorial strategies promoting popular and vernacular photography; and through the dissemination of photographic images in the art world. The contributing authors discuss such topics as how photographic images became objects of appropriation and collection; the faith in photographic truthfulness; Life magazine's traveling exhibitions and their effect on the magazine's “media hegemony”; and the curatorial challenges of making vernacular photographs accessible in an artistic environment.

    The “Public” Life of Photographs is the first volume in a series called RIC Books, which is copublished by MIT Press and the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC). The RIC, located at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, is a museum dedicated to the exhibition, research, study and teaching of photography and related disciplines.

    Contributors Geoffrey Batchen, Nathalie Boulouch, Heather Diack, André Gunthert, Sophie Hackett, Vincent Lavoie, Olivier Lugon, Mary Panzer, Joel Snyder

    • Hardcover $35.00 £28.00