“Dans le passé mort”: Pierre Loti, Images, and Time
Often overlooked as a theorist of photography, Pierre Loti (1850–1923) provided original insights that anticipate those of critics such as Roland Barthes and Susan Sontag. Through consideration of three Loti texts—“Dans le passé mort” (1891), the 1893 preface to Charles Lallemand’s Le Caire, and “Photographies d’hier et d’aujourd’hui” (1910)—I show that Loti, who started experimenting with photography as a child, recognized the medium as an art form early on. Photographs, whose analogical nature makes them effective tools to preserve family memory and history, provide him with an alternative to the more fragile, less truthful painted portrait. Finally, as parts of collections, photographs enable Loti to construct a character and to find his place in history.