On Photography

Whether it’s Ansel Adams’s Landscapes (Middle), Gary Winongrand’s Cityscapes (Lower Left), Annie Leibovitz’s Lifestyle photos (Right), or Walker Evans photographs of rural poverty (Upper Left); or any number of a multitude of other current or past photographers: I’ve always felt that photography is about enframing (Heidegger), about that sense that one is exposed to something that has been framed within/by technology – but what; a view, a description, a statement of fact or imagination. Is this interpretation (hermeneutics) or against it (non-representational), real or irreal, etc. Is the photographer trying to destroy the gap between the camera’s eye and the scene, bring thought and being together in unison, one? Or, is she producing gaps between form and content, revealing the inherent contradictions and antagonisms in reality, the obstruction of the Real itself that will not let the photographer in on the secret of the world? The best photographers seem to situate themselves in the gaps and cracks of the world, the slippages in things allowing them to speak and emerge on their own, stand their shining in their simplicity as things without us; and, yet, at other times we see the power of the human emerge, too: the supple interweaving of certain lines of light and shadow that suddenly lift emotion from its core hideaway and reveal the patterns of reality in ways that nothing else in the world could. So that this enframed technology of the photograph is both produced gap and its destruction, a twisting of the anamorphic truth that cannot come by way of direct or indirect appeal. This notion of what a photographer is up to in what they’ve framed and caught in their slice of the Real – what is the action, the event being portrayed. Is it light, shadow, movement, texture, grains, color (trope of effect or cause?), the deformation of things or their ineffableness – mystery. It’s this sense of struggle not with the medium itself but with the actual forms being captured in the act of disclosure – it’s almost like pornography of the Real, as if one could capture the raw naked power of its lures, traps, and investiture as it suddenly juts its ugly or beautiful head out of the thick soup of things… to reveal the force of appearance rather than appearance per se; to reveal as in apocalypse/revelation a happening in movement in still life slices just at the point where time, space, and substance come together in the unique distillation of the Real. One can never truly capture it in a photo, what one captures is the hint — as in Zen of the frisson of the momentary aura (Benjamin) of the world in its passing… nothing is redeemed, everything is loss, pure loss… only the sparks and embers in their slow burn dazzle us with the supreme delights of the photographer’s art.

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