This article analyzes two types of visual perception in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955): camera obscura and camera lucida, terms that are taken from photography and painting, respectively. By applying these terms, this article identifies a visual dilemma in how an artist perceives the object during the process of artistic creation—in a sense, a photographer cannot see the object itself at the moment of capturing the exposure, and a painter has to cease looking at the object and depict it from memory. Based on this visual dilemma, this article analyzes the two types of writing in Lolita: Humbert Humbert’s private diary written with his photographic memory and his manuscript for publication, his confession, written with his painterly imagination. This article argues that Humbert’s two ways of inscribing, camera obscura and lucida, fail to capture the full reality of the object because they are both based on his memory and inspiration rather than a vision of reality. Humbert is seized by his own inspiration that has been derived from his illusion, Lolita, that does not necessarily represent the reality of the object, Dolores. These examples epitomize Nabokov’s view that art has no or minimal relation to life.

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