[Writer, b. 1821, Paris, d. 1867, Paris.]
Our squalid society rushed, Narcissus to a man, to gaze on its trivial image on a scrap of metal.
All the visible universe is nothing but a shop of images and signs.
This industry [photography], by invading the territories of art, has become art’s most mortal enemy.
If photography is allowed to supplement art in some of its functions, it will soon have supplanted or corrupted it altogether, thanks to the stupidity of the multitude which is its natural ally.
A portrait! What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound? (1859)
... a thousand hungry eyes are bending over the peepholes of the stereoscope as though they were the attic windows of the infinite. The love of pornography, which is no less deep-rooted in the natural heart of man than the love of himself, was not to let slip so fine an opportunity of satisfaction [as photography]. And do not imagine that it was only children on their way back from school who took pleasure in these follies; everyone was infatuated with them. (1859)
Photography must, therefore, return to its true identity, which is that of handmaid of the arts and sciences, but their very humble handmaid, like printing and shorthand, which have neither created nor supplanted literature... Let it be the secretary and record-keeper of whomsoever needs absolute material accuracy for professional reasons... But if once it be allowed to impinge on the sphere of the intangible and imaginary, on anything that has value solely because man adds something to it from his soul, then woe betide us!
I would very much like to have a photograph of you... [but] I must be there. You know nothing about them, and all photographers, even the best, have ridiculous mannerisms. They think it is a good photograph if warts, wrinkles, and every defect and triviality of the face are made visible and exaggerated; and the HARDER the image is, the more they are pleased. (1865, To his mother)