Why is photography interesting? The number of people who might care about what I have to say has almost doubled since I took it on as an intentional practice, so that question might be better posed to the people who took interest, instead.
But why *is* photography interesting to me? I have often said that I am an inherently visual communicator, but those of you who have been here from the start know that I picked up the craft as an object of discourse or matter of concern first. Words came before light, in an isomorphism of what Dane Rudhyar argues is our metaphysical reality (in an essay that @caldermguthrie shared with me):
“In Genesis, Elohim (the plural God, creator of the universe) said, “Let there be light: and there was light.” The saying refers to the release of a creative power which should be thought of as Sound in its spiritual or spirit-emanated aspect. The result of the divine utterance is light. Sound therefore precedes light.”
But photography is writing with light, and that’s what most attracted me, so it’s been illuminating – as it were – to see the ebb and flow in interest between those of you who know me through grapheme and those of you who know me through grain; the more I spoke to some, the less I spoke to others.
So why is photography interesting? Because it makes us think about what we see. We think about that less and less as the ubiquity of photographic means increases, but the tools at hand are not yet as prosthetic as how marks on clay eventually became, so as to be completely invisible. The film is translucent still; we still must see through it to see anything at all.
Photography offers us a timescale of the human cyborg that we can still fathom; it has a history rich enough to fade into muscle memory yet still discrete enough to be digestible. Read Sontag. Read Barthes. Read Benjamin. Read Flusser. They all wrote much more than I can begin to say.
But what I will say is this: one day, the age of AI will be written as a postlude to the age of mechanical reproduction inaugurated by the daguerreotype; from apparatuses to apps, history will write continuities in the circulation of images.
The art of photography is a sniper’s logic; I remember a talk in Lebanon about thinking tactical urbanism through what the vantage points and sight lines of bullet ridden buildings reveal—a sniper reads the city creatively, that’s true, but his craft is still a cog in the war machine. That’s photography: a beautiful working out of a violent economy.
I read Sontag. I read Barthes. I read Benjamin. I read Flusser. Then I lifted the scope to my right eye and took aim.
Why is photography interesting? Because it’s fraught. There are no beautiful souls behind the viewfinder. There are murderers and thieves. There are conscripts in the society of spectacle. There are prisoners of the flesh. There are adulterers.
Photography is the eye we pluck out on purpose with every capture. We ask forgiveness with every edit. We offer thanks with every post.
I love photography because it lets me speak without words. I hate photography because words still need to be spoken.
“The most basic and primordial dualism a human being experiences is that of light and darkness. Thus, while light symbolizes the emergence of the objective consciousness it makes possible, sound refers to the operation of the creative will.” (Dane Rudhyar)