Originally published by Continuum in 2012 and reissued in paperback by Bloomsbury in 2013, Benjamin, Barthes and the Singularity of Photography focuses on photography in the works of German philosopher Walter Benjamin and French critic and theorist Roland Barthes, two of the most-often cited thinkers of the twentieth century. It places their relevant writings within the wider contexts of intellectual history and the theory and history of photography and argues that both writers emphasize the experiential and ethical 'singularity' of photographs (especially portraits).
The book pursues hitherto unexplored aspects of Benjamin's and Barthes's engagement with photography, provides new interpretations of familiar texts, and analyzes material which has only recently become available, such as Mourning Diary (Journal de deuil) by Barthes. It shows that despite the different historical, philosophical and cultural contexts of their work, Benjamin and Barthes engage with similar issues and problems that photography uniquely poses, including the relationship between the photograph and its beholder as a confrontation between self and other, and the dynamic relation between time, subjectivity, memory and loss. Both Benjamin and Barthes, it is argued, emphasize the singular event of the photograph's apprehension and its ethical and existential aspects rooted in the power and poignancy of photographic images.
A number of photographs that Benjamin and Barthes engage with are reproduced and analyzed and the vexed question of a direct influence of Benjamin on Barthes is addressed head-on through exploration of Barthes's sources for his seminal Camera Lucida (La Chambre claire).
Benjamin, Barthes and the Singularity of Photography has been translated into Spanish by Núria Molines and was published by Alpha Decay in 2017.
Previously, Benjamin, Barthes and the Singularity of Photography was published in Turkish in 2015.
In 2014, I edited a special issue of the journal Nottingham French Studies on Photography in Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures published as a book by Edinburgh University Press. The first broad and inclusive account of the multiple manifestations of photography in contemporary French and francophone societies and cultures, it was also the first issue in the journal's history devoted to photography.
The volume of eight orignial essays and an interview I conducted with Jean-Luc Monterosso, the Director of one of France's leading photographic institutions (the Maison européenne de la photographie) presents a wide-ranging treatment of the multi-faceted reality of photography in French and francophone contexts, while addressing the works of individual photographers and writers, including Bruno Boudjelal, Stéphane Couturier, Raymond Depardon, Valerie Jouve and Roland Barthes, Sophie Calle, J.M.G. Le Clézio, Annie Ernaux, Hervé Guibert, Denis Roche.