Revolutionaries in living color

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It is often said that it was the painters who invented photography (by bequeathing it their framing, the Albertian perspective, and the optic of the camera obscura). I say: no, it was the chemists. For the noeme “That-has-been” was possible only on the day when a scientific circumstance (the discovery that silver halogens were sensitive to light) made it possible to recover and print directly the luminous rays emitted by a variously lighted object. The photograph is literally an emanation of the referent. From a real body, which was there, proceed radiations which ultimately touch me, who am here; the duration of the transmission is insignificant; the photograph of the missing being, as Sontag says, will touch me like the delayed rays of a star. A sort of umbilical cord links the body of the photographed thing to my gaze: light, though impalpable, is here a carnal medium, a skin I share with anyone who has been photographed.

It seems that in Latin “photograph” would be said imago lucis opera expressa; which is to say: image revealed, “extracted,” “mounted,” “expressed” (like the juice of a lemon) by the action of light. And if photography belonged to a world with some residual sensitivity to myth, we should exult over the richness of the symbol: the loved body is immortalized by the mediation of a precious metal, silver (monument and luxury); to which we might add the notion that this metal, like all the metals of alchemy, is alive.

Perhaps it is because I am delighted (or depressed) to know that the thing of the past, by its immediate radiations (its luminances), has really touched the surface which in its turn my gaze will touch, that I am not very fond of color. An anonymous daguerreotype of 1843 shows a man and a woman in a medallion subsequently tinted by the miniaturists on the staff of the photographic studio: I always feel (unimportant what actually occurs) that in the same way, color is a coating applied later on to the original truth of the black-and-white photograph. For me, color is an artifice, a cosmetic (like the kind used to paint corpses). What matters to me is not the photograph’s “life” (a purely ideological notion) but the certainty that the photographed body touches me with its own rays and not with a superadded light.

— Roland Barthes,
Camera Lucida

Color by klimbims (Olga)Mikhail Bakunin, 1860 Ulyanov family, 1879 Piotr Chaykovsky Kropotkin | Кропоткин Anton Chekhov Nadezhda Krupskaya, Vladimir Lenins wifeVaslav Nijinsky in Scheherazade, ~1910 Vaslav Nijinsky Nikolay GumilevAnna Akhmatova | Анна АхматоваAnna Akhmatova, russian poet Stalin young Maxim Gorky with wife Karl Radek, 1919Yakov Sverdlov | Яков СвердловLenin | ЛенинLenin | ЛенинLenin Lenin 2Lenin | Ленин Leon TrotskyДзержинский Феликс ЭдмундовичAlexandra KollontaiOsip Mandelshtam Siegmund Freud Sergei Yesenin, Russian lyric poet Sergei Yesenin : Сергей Есенин Sergei Yesenin (sometimes spelled as Esenin; Russian- Сергей Есенин (1895 – 1925) was a Russian lyrical poet Vladimir Mayakovsky | Владимир Маяковский Vladimir Mayakovsky Ho Chi Minh young Marina Tsvetaeva Joseph Stalin July 1945 at the POTSDAM CONFERENCE Lieutenant Tovolzhansky wipes his boots with Nazi flag at ACS ICS-152 Soviet soldiers on the throne of the last Chinese emperor Pu Yi, 1945. Yuri Gagarin with his Matra Bonnet Djet VS coupe

One thought on “Revolutionaries in living color

  1. Pingback: Revolutionaries in living color | Oxtapus *blueAction

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