First Ukrainian Translation of Barthes’ Camera Lucida Published

13 June 2022

Trinity doctoral student Olena Chervonik has published the first translation of Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida from French into Ukrainian.

The translation published by the Museum of Kharkiv School of Photography was due for publication on 24 February, but was postponed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was released on April 7, marking the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kyiv region.

Camera Lucida was first published in 1980 and is an important early academic works of criticism and theory dedicated to photography, particularly its effects on the viewer. 

Olena Chervonik says of the publication: ‘I see my translating efforts as a political affair. That's because for centuries the Russian empire and the Soviet Union as its heir was denying Ukrainians the right to use their language. There were moments in our history when one could get imprisoned for creating literature in Ukrainian or even for speaking the language in a public setting. Most of the world literature, creative or academic, was translated into Russian only, with only a small portion permitted in Ukrainian. Since I am an art historian writing my dissertation on photography, I have decided to contribute to the Ukrainian epistemic independence by translating some important literature on the medium I am researching.

‘We were supposed to release it in February but were delayed by the start of the war. But we managed anyway and even included a notice on the first page that states that the book was printed on April 7, 2022, in Kyiv during the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty.’

Olena Chervonik is originally from Dnipro in Ukraine; her Dphil research looks at the invention of photography, specifically the role of the British astronomer and polymath John Herschel as one of the important inventors of the medium.