Unreal Nature

November 23, 2016

The Feeling of Separation

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… with his work we enter into an affectionate rapport, almost like the early states of falling in love.

This is from the essay ‘King Midas in a Blind Alley’ 1982 found in The Complete Essays 1973-1991 by Luigi Ghirri (2016):

… she cursed him with the following words: ‘May everything you touch turn to gold!’ Midas makes his escape, but soon realizes that he cannot touch or love another. One day, having fallen in love with a woman, and feeling desperate because he cannot draw her close, he abandons himself to these thoughts: ‘My life is made up only of instants, and these instants represent something only because I live in hope that someday they will unite. But that day never comes. I only see beauty in things and in men; indeed, my life has been granted sight alone, and so I only look on, and never take part. My life is like a golden statue: it is separated from everything else, and has neither a past nor a future …’

On one level, this is symbolic of the creative process of man in general, but it’s even more compelling if we consider the magical power of the camera as the modern King Midas, used to see (i.e. record) and transform the entire visible world. Photography has become an opaque layer, thick with images which are superimposed on reality itself — the debris of our age, which if examined by an archaeologist of the future, would be difficult to interpret. Just as King Midas was unable to draw close to reality because his touch transformed the world around him, our reality has already been transformed.

The chance of finding intervals of clarity and transparency, or of rediscovering a center, seems to be more remote than ever. Targets move at increasing speed. Those who attempt to reclaim an image ‘of man’ or ‘on man’ fall into clichĂ©, and look increasingly like romantics or amateurs in search of a personal alibi.

Next is from ‘Still-Life: Topography-Iconography’ 1982:

… Photography is not mere duplication, nor is the camera simply an optical device that brings the physical world to a halt; photography is a language in which the difference between reproduction and interpretation, however subtle, exists and gives rise to an infinite number of imaginary worlds. Even the objects that seem to be entirely described by our own seeing, once represented may turn out to be like the blank pages of a book yet to be written.

I could have called this work ‘In Search of the Lost Original,’ or named it after a journey in which history and geography blend into one, in which collective and personal notions are mixed together, in which deliberately trivial photographs are to be found alongside others we brood upon — a journey into the immutable accompanied by a longing for the miraculous.

This next is from a 1984 review of the work of another photographer (Franco Vimercati):

… Description is not the ability to describe from the outside, but rather it is that moment of descriptive capacity to be found within the image itself. Here, we no longer have worlds to be interpreted, no more strategies, but the subtle fascination of the image itself. The capacity of the image to reveal the invisible to us — not exposing the unknown or the unseen, but rather discovering an aspect in things and objects that is lost in the depths of our own perception.

The following is from ‘The World Caressed by Walker Evans‘ 1985:

… The feeling of separation, of extraneousness, that we feel when looking at the vast majority of photographs is due to a sense of disorientation; those are images that do not pertain to us, images that are not necessary to us. With Evans there is none of this at all — with his work we enter into an affectionate rapport, almost like the early states of falling in love. The places, spaces and faces are immediately recognizable, familiar, habitable.

No violence, no shock, visual or emotional, no mawkishness; what we have with Evans is a state of tenderness for the world, a sense of unity and harmony. Every part of the landscape, from the roofs of the houses to signs on walls, seems to await recognition via his loving eye.

My most recent previous post from Ghirri’s book is here.

-Julie

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