“looking at eyes that looked at the Emperor”



When Roland Barthes wrote about his experience while viewing a photograph of Napoleon’s youngest brother Jerome in the book Camera Lucida, he “realized then, with an amazement I have not been able to lessen since: “I am looking at eyes that looked at the Emperor.” When I think about my own obsession with photography I’m reminded of Barthes’ “eyes”, and while I share the same fascination I’m not sure what inspires it.
Could it be the “time travel experience” – when viewing a photograph from the past you are looking through a window into a different time. Or maybe in the digital world where our images reside in the computer, is it the physicality of the object itself and what it meant for the original owner? Or is it just the fact that I’m saddened by the way photos are discarded so easily?

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