photo essay

Author, Author

A selection from ‘Writers’, a series by the photographer Steve Pyke

1 December 2013

IN HIS SEMINAL 1967 ESSAY ‘Death of the Author’, the French literary theorist Roland Barthes stated that “Classic criticism has never paid any attention to the reader; for it, the writer is the only person in literature. … [W]e know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.”

But curiosity and fascination for the writer refuse to fade. Who are they? How do they think? What are they like? People still attend readings, seek out autographs, and write letters asking what was meant by a particular symbol, a specific turn of phrase.

‘Writers’ is a series of photographs by Steve Pyke that places the author front and centre. Pyke, born in England and based now in New York, became known for his unique portraiture in the 1980s. Since then, he has maintained strong artistic interest in the importance of the face. “The way we live our lives is etched into the landscape of our faces,” he has been oft quoted as saying. “We create the face with which we live.”

In this collection, some of the writers stare directly into the camera, others into the distance. The photographs are in black and white, the writer’s faces against dark backgrounds. Nothing distracts from their features. The starkness deepens the mystery, but also deepens the connection: we are invited to stare into an author’s eyes, to wonder what he or she is trying to say to us.



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