As is often true

by Paul Burmeister

In his response to Michael Fried's essay on Barthe's punctum, James Elkins offers counter-perspective that I find to be true elsewhere, about other things regarded as iconic. Elkins writes, "There is perhaps no better evidence of the disarray of contemporary theorizing on photography than the fact that a book as problematic as (Barthe's) Camera Lucida is still read and cited as a source of insights about photography."
Often what we think we understand about a thing derives from an essentially problematic idea that over time has become an accepted body of biases? Elkins is to be commended for unpacking biases that have accumulated around the theoretical response to Roland Barthe's little book on photography. Elkins' discussion of vernacular photography is especially useful.

(James Elkins. "What Do We Want Photography to Be? A Response to Michael Fried." Critical Inquiry 31, no. 4 (Summer 2005.)