Friday, 31 October 2008

Photographs and events

Found photograph, US, circa 1950s

A photograph records a moment (not a instant) as an event, but it's limitation is to represent an event just as an image, which events never are. If we look hard and long enough we can recover something of the texture and weight of the moment, its presence and live-ness, the smooth solidity of the TV cabinet and the light roughness of the net curtains, the fact that there was a life before it and a life after, and motion was continuous; as soon as it happened it was over. Each object (as it appears to us) had a birth and death, a moment of conception, production, distribution, acquisition, a term of use and a then rejection. Each was handled and positioned (the spotty cushion was placed on the armchair), each was part of the great vibration of surrounding events. Each absorbed and generated the ambient noise of its time, which filled the space as much as the objects did. Everything in the scene was anticipated and remembered, everything was the material of experience.

In order to recognise the photograph I actually have to have been 'there', which is to say I have to have experienced something of sufficient similarity for the image to make sense. I have to relive the moment which occurred in another country even before I was born.