GHOST IMAGE by Hervé Guibert


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 Echoes of Roland Barthes haunt this startling collection of autobiographical essays on photography. Guibert was a prolific writer and photographer who died from AIDS at the age of 36 in 1991. Thus, his discussion of photography's dual desire to both record and arrest the body's decay is additionally loaded, as it is shadowed, by his illness and imminent death. The French have a flair for elegantly combining the personal and the critical, and Guibert is no different. He recounts how, when he was 18, he asked his mother (who was middle-aged and terrified of growing old) to pose for him without hair-styling or makeup; at ease in a way she never has been when his father took her picture, she seemed ``at the height of her beauty,'' with ``an imperceptible smile on her lips . . . of peace, of happiness.'' He describes the erotic intensity of the session and the horror of discovering that the film hadn't been loaded right--that he had shot blanks. The absent image hung suspended between him and his mother and they never discussed it, but that dazzling, lost moment further shaped his determination to pursue photography, to understand its peculiar alchemy. Guibert's rhythmic descriptions of his relationship to images at various stages of his life manage to convey the transience of life and memory that the photographer is always struggling to overcome. The photograph doesn't preserve memory, he observes, but replaces it, just as the photographer doesn't own the image he takes but has it returned to him ``like a once familiar object to an amnesiac.'' From the parental framing of the prepubescent body to a film star's obsession with her own iconic manipulation, Guibert uses his personal experiences to develop a lyrical, elegiac celebration of the medium and its implications--a provocative and highly original investigation, sadly truncated by the author's death. (3 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1996
ISBN: 1-55713-267-4
Page count: 176pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1996


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