Digressions on the Photographic Agony


La frontière de l'aube - Philippe Garrel, 2008, 35mm

She welcomes him in a simple way. She calls him her ghost.


La jetée - Chris Marker, 1962, 35mm


As for him, he never knows whether he moves towards her, whether he is driven, whether he has made it up, or whether he is only dreaming.

La frontière de l'aube - Philippe Garrel, 2008, 35mm

Film - Alan Schneider, 1965, 35mm

In photography I can never deny that the thing has been there. There is a superimposition here: of reality and of the past. And since this constraint exists only for Photography, we must consider it, by reduction, as the very essence, the noeme of Photography. What I intentionalise in a photograph (we are not yet speaking of film) is neither Art nor Communication, it is Reference, which is the founding order of Photography.

The name of Photography's noeme will therefore be: "That-has-been," or again: the Intractable. In Latin (a pedantry necessary because it illuminates certain nuances), this would doubtless be said: interfuit: what I see has been here, in this place which extends beyond infinity and the subject (operator or spectator); it has been here, and yet immediately separated; it has been absolutely, irrefutably present, and yet already deferred.

--Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, 1980 (trans. Richard Howard, Vintage, 1993), p.76-77.

All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person's (or thing's) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt.

--Susan Sontag, "In Plato's Cave", in On Photography, 1973 (Penguin, 2002), p.15.

(nostalgia) - Hollis Frampton, 1971, 16mm

The Photograph does not call up the past (nothing Proustian in a photograph). The effect it produces upon me is not to restore what has been abolished (by time, by distance) but to attest that what I see has indeed existed. Now, this is a strictly scandalous effect. Always the Photograph astonishes me, with an astonishment which endures and renews itself, inexhaustibly. Perhaps this astonishment, this persistence reaches down into the religious substance out of which I am moulded; nothing for it: Photography has something to do with resurrection: might we not say of it what the Byzantines said of the image of Christ which impregnated St. Veronica's napkin: that it was not made by the hand of man, acheiropoietos?

--Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, 1980 (trans. Richard Howard, Vintage, 1993), p.82.

It is obscure; by any possible reckoning, it is hopelessly ambiguous. Nevertheless, what I believe I see recorded, in that speck of film, fills me with such fear, such utter dread and loathing, that I think I shall never dare to make another photograph again. Here it is! Look at it! Do you see what I see?

--words by Hollis Frampton, spoken by Michael Snow, (nostalgia), dated 1/8/71.

La frontière de l'aube - Philippe Garrel, 2008, 35mm

1 comment:

Maya said...

Exquisite reading, Matthew. Absolutely exquisite. I have been transported. Thank you.