Nancy Shawcross places Barthes' thought on photography in the context of his developing ideas about semiology, tracking origins, rejections, and departures. She shows Barthes' affinities with and distinction from other theorists of photography such as Baudelaire and Benjamin and examines his thought in the context of postmodern discussions of photography that followed it.
Barthes enjoyed a long and shifting relationship with photography, first using it as metaphor, then exploring its use in movies, film stills, political campaigns, and popular photographic essays, and finally confronting it anew upon the death of his mother. Though his last book, Camera Lucida, has enormously influenced the study of visual images in the arts and humanities, this is the first examination in English of Barthes' work on the visual arts. Shawcross brings together and analyzes for the first time - in any language - all of Barthes' writings, both direct and indirect, about visual media in their many forms.