the horror of photography

I

If images can be evil, then they can also be healing and redemptive. We say that some images are wrong, evil, but surely the image is just a carrier, a vessel; the subject becomes the object, the vessel becomes the fluid of suffering contained within. We cannot feel, touch (or even, sometimes, imagine) the horror, but we can see the image, so for us the horror is the image. The image gives the illusion / we create the illusion of it being real when it is not; it is just particles of light.

Alchemy is born because if the image is not real, but has a special connection to what is real, then perhaps {that which is not real but is image} can become real because of the image. The image becomes real because of will – the will to conceive, create, construct the image, the will to give birth to the image. The reality that is created by an image – what is that? It is not real but it is not an empty space either.

All art, at some point, somewhere, must confront the paradox of what is real and what is not real. To not look inside oneself, for art to not look inside to see what and why it is, is delusion and invalidates everything that might come from art. The purpose is to understand what itself is, only then (perhaps, because of) can art describe, dissolve and transform suffering.

At some point, photography reaches a limit beyond which it cannot describe what is to be seen. This limit is an undefinable region containing definable points: one point (perhaps the only point) within this region is where the shape of forms requires direct intervention through painting to become visible. This is the act of transforming {will} onto a blank and empty space, making a connection between the world of forms and symbols and the world of our flesh, making truths that show these 2 worlds as being the same world.

Perhaps the bodies that lie within our particles, although they are long dead and lifeless, breathe with us, oxygenate our thoughts. How can it not be that because of this, our thoughts still live in events long forgotten and never recorded? How can it not make sense that there is no beginning and no end? We career through living like pinballs.

II

We do not see things, the image we see is not the one on our retina, it is the image inside, which is a different thing, coloured by emotion, memory, other senses of this place, unknown fields of conceptual thoughts, tangents… so the complete image is defined by presence. Therefore to treat a photograph as something real is to discard reality and replace it with a false skin.

Photographs of stale preserved rooms which were in their time overflowing with horror and suffering, so much memory implied, is this the room I am really looking at, or just a beautifully composed, exposed image. The irony of photography is that it doesn’t expose anything – no, it reveals worse than nothing, it adds layers instead of stripping them away. It creates a skin.

Photos of empty rooms create feelings, because we pour emotions into empty spaces, but as soon as there is a face, a hand, evidence that life was here, the photograph becomes like a shell, and if you try to empathise with this shell of a person, then you are fooling yourself, you cannot feel what they feel, remember what they remember. This moment when you see a person in a photograph is long gone for them, replaced by things you cannot imagine but would like to think that you can, just because of a photograph. So this photograph is false and so are any feelings you might have about it.

Unless we are capable of turning what is dead into something with life… which raises the question, why would you want to do that? Why would you want to turn a photograph into feelings? These are not your memories, they are not from you, so why try to photograph them… worse, how can you imagine what it would be like to have memories like these? Is it that photography steals people’s memories so that other people (invisible to the subject) can empathise (or imagine empathy)? Though we really do empathise, it is just that this empathy is based upon a mirage. It makes it no less nor no more, even a little empathy is better than none, but it is still, reduced to colours, empty of real feeling, like the feeling when you are happy, or in pain, or have witnessed a birth or a death. A photograph is not really in that moment even though it shows an image of that moment.

The horror of photography is that it strips away all what makes someone’s life and death real, personal, and presents something that is distant, like emotions stretched out so far that they have no real connection with their source. Photography has no place in the world of the living, whose moments of happiness and sadness are balanced on a knife edge. The world that is made visible through photographs is a lifeless world. In photographs, everything is a still life. Perhaps this is also our life, we have to reconcile the beauty of forms revealed in photographs with the impossibility of capturing our own moments, gone even before we realise they have happened. in a deathless interior.

Certainly, art galleries are no place for real photographs, only false ones… probably art galleries are no place for any thing. How can they be, when the world is always outside of them? …and feelings remain hidden, covered, somehow intransigent, like a fog. The fog gets thicker the more you try to penetrate it.

III

If God is everywhere, everything, then what is a photograph? We could simply reference the whole of flickr, because every image there will represent a truth, and that truth will be a part of God. What this is all about is the idea of capturing a recognition of God, not God itself. After all this, God remains invisible (God’s integrity remains intact…) I could take a picture and say ‘this is God to me’ but I could also take a picture and not even be thinking of God. Does that mean that some of my pictures capture God and others do not? Does thinking about God whilst I take a picture give that image some kind of validity that all my other pictures might not? This picture i might have just taken: does it express God in a way that you can relate to? Some pictures you might like, others not? At some point for a curator there must be some action of inclusion/exclusion, unavoidably subjective, personal. This says more about the curator than it does about God.

Logic cannot find God. but what of us lost souls, who believe in belief but also cannot see how belief can reveal God? Are we lost in a bittersweet freedom? What is there? It seems to me that to question God is a bit like questioning art. I might have a pocketful of dreams, and they might be all empty. Perhaps in a billion years time I hope to find emptiness.