Edited by Odette England, Foreword by Charlotte Cotton, Designed by Cara Buzzell, published by Schilt Publishing (2020)
Keeper of the Hearth front cover
To mark the 40th anniversary of Roland Barthes' Camera Lucida, Odette England created the Winter Garden Photograph Project. Part of this project includes England’s first edited volume Keeper of the Hearth: Picturing Roland Barthes’ Unseen Photograph released in March 2020.
The book contains more than 200 photography-based artists, writers, critics, curators, and historians from around the world who have contributed an image or text that reflects on Barthes’ unpublished snapshot of his mother at age five.
Camera Lucida, by Roland Barthes, published in 1980, is arguably one of the most influential books on photography. Barthes completed this renowned work shortly before his death, and the book is a tribute to Barthes’ late mother, Henriette whom he had an incredibly close relationship with.
In Camera Lucida, Barthes discusses the Winter Garden photograph, a portrait of Barthes’ mother at age 5 which he describes:
“The Photograph does not call up the past. The effect it produces upon me is not to restore what has been abolished (by time, by distance) but to attest that what I see has indeed existed. The photograph possesses an evidential force, and that its testimony bears not on the object, but on time. From a phenomenological viewpoint, in the Photograph, the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation.” -Roland Barthes
For Barthes, devastated by his mother’s death, this photograph evokes memories of his mother’s essence, yet Barthes keeps this photograph a mystery: “It exists only for me. For you, it would be nothing but an indifferent picture.”
The book is a beautiful publication, taking readers on a journey that is magical and transports one to a different place. With a range of imagery from portraiture to landscape, abstract to direct, the reader is spellbound by this idea of what compromises memory.
The Keeper of the Hearth is currently showing at the Houston Center for Photography until January 2021.