Medien|Denken – Ilit Ferber – Photography and Sadness (Audio)

04.11.2015 | ILIT FERBER (Tel Aviv) 

Photography and Sadness – Some Remarks on Benjamin and Barthes


A philosophical discussion of the emergence of the new media cannot be limited to the analysis of the structure and inner-logic of the different media themselves. Its importance is in raising the abiding philosophical predicaments of human experience, feeling and knowledge. Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes are both famous for their writings about photography; their discussion, however, is not limited to the nature of the medium itself, but provokes a series of questions referring to the unbreakable connection between photography and feeling, specifically, sadness. This article seeks to trace the connection between the photographic medium and feeling as it appears in Benjamin and Barthes, so as to argue that the uniqueness of this medium lies not in the way it captures or represents feeling, but rather in its ability to evoke it. Benjamin’ and Barthes’ investigation of the photographic medium is shown to be an investigation of the nature of human feelings and its fundamental connection with the photographic medium.

Biographical Note

Ilit Ferber is associate professor of philosophy at Tel-Aviv University. Her research focuses on the relationship between philosophy and psychoanalysis and the correspondence between language and the passions. Her monograph, Philosophy and Melancholy: Benjamin’s Early Reflections on Theater and Language (Stanford University Press, 2013) explores the role of melancholy in Benjamin’s early writings and discusses the relationship between Benjamin, Freud and Leibniz. Ferber has co-edited Philosophy’s Moods: The Affective Grounds of Thinking (Springer, 2011) and Lament in Jewish Thought: Philosophical, Theological and Literary Perspectives (De Gruyter, 2014), and published numerous articles on Benjamin, Freud, Leibniz, Heidegger, Scholem and Herder. Her current research focuses on the relationship between pain and language in the writings of Rousseau, Herder, Wittgenstein and Benjamin.

IfM - Institut für Medienwissenschaft
IfM – Institut für Medienwissenschaft
Medien|Denken – Ilit Ferber – Photography and Sadness

Christian Heinke