[Writer and poet, b. 1871, Sète, France, d. 1945, Paris.]
To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees.
Thanks to photography, the eye grew accustomed to anticipate what it should see and to see it; and it learned not to see nonexistent things which, hitherto, it had seen so clearly.
Man cannot bear his own portrait. The image of his limits and his own determinacy exasperates him, drives him mad.
The mere notion of photography, when we introduce it into our meditation on the genesis of historical knowledge and its true value, suggests the simple question: Could such and such a fact, as it is narrated here, have been photographed?
Photography invites one to give up any attempt to delineate such things as can delineate themselves.
Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far-off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign. (1939, on the one hundredth anniversary of Daguerre's announcement of photography.)
What is Plato’s famous cave if not a camera obscura, the largest ever conceived, I suppose? If Plato reduced the mouth of his grotto to a tiny hole and applied a sensitized coat to the wall that served as his screen, by developing the rear of the cave he could have obtained a gigantic film, and heaven knows what astounding conclusions he might have left regarding the nature of our knowledge and the essence of our ideas...
From the moment that photography appeared, the descriptive genre began to invade Letters... In verse as in prose the décor and exterior aspects of life took an almost excessive place.