In this photograph, Barthes sees his mother's true essence speak through the photo paper.
Barthes has a passion for photography that is marked by an extreme idolization of the transcendence of photography. Barthes states, "Such a desire really meant that beyond the evidence provided by technology and usage, and despite its tremendous contemporary expansion, I wasn't sure that Photography existed, that it had a 'genius' of its own" (1). All of the technical and analytical books Barthes read on photography could not satisfy the feeling he had for the art/religion of photography. Barthes goes on to define the photograph as: "the object of three practices:  to do, to undergo, to look" (3). The respect that Barthes shows to photography is so evident throughout Camera Lucida that he even states the photographer is not merely a photographer, but an operator: An operator who not only manipulates the camera, but an operator who manipulates the referent or subject, the environment and the spectator.
Barthes muses on the subject of being the referent. His hope that the camera will make him look stunning is a hope that many people can relate to. His fear that the camera will not capture his true essence is also a fear that many people can relate to. Upon seeing the result of the photo Barthes states, "the Photomat always turns you into a criminal type, wanted by the police" (4).