Photography and the Thin Present: Barthes, Deleuze and the Time of Portrayal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Downloads (Pure)


The temporal relationship we have with a portrait, its photographer and sitter, is a phenomenology of the pose – as both portrayal and self-portrayal – in photographic media. The portrait preserves the present on behalf of the future, which looks back at its past. The catastrophe of photography is its emptying out of time, noted most famously in Barthes’ reading of a portrait by Alexander Gardner.

However, the recorded, remembered, and shared image practices in contemporary visual culture reveal an attenuation of time that is at once ‘now’ and ‘then’ as a distinct affective experience that is understandable, legible, and exchangeable. It is full, not empty, but thinned rather than lost. This thin present needs a phenomenology that accounts for combination and duplication, as well as the sensation of loss and separation, as direct experience. I propose that a dialogue between Barthes’ work and Deleuze’s pragmatics allows us to read the time of portrayal as haecceity, where we describe, remember, and reproduce affect as a thing in itself, with its own uniqueness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-16
Number of pages10
JournalRevista de História de Arte - Série W
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License (,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited..


  • Barthes
  • Deleuze
  • Portraiture
  • Photography
  • Time
  • haecceity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


Dive into the research topics of 'Photography and the Thin Present: Barthes, Deleuze and the Time of Portrayal'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this