ABSTRACT. Inspired by the accidental impression of a photograph from Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida on a negative left (forgotten) inside the book, this article dwells on the idea of ‘latency’ in photographic and psychological writings. Taking Barthes’s image analysis as a starting point we show how it was influenced by Freud’s notion of ‘differed action’ and traumatic memory. As a ‘state of the art’ imaging technique photography informed early scientific research on memory and perception; Freud used the photographic metaphor to represent the unconscious. Nevertheless, Barthes took up the idea of latent image and developed it into a narrative technique for rendering the subjective and traumatic substrate of photographic perception.

Keywords: latent image; differed action; trauma; photographic metaphor; Barthes; Freud; Camera Lucida

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PhD candidate and visual artist,
Université Libre de Bruxelles, Académie royale de Beaux-arts,
Brussels, Belgium

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