Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"A picture is a secret about a secret" Diane Arbus.
I started reading Susan Sontag's collection of essays 'On Photography' today. It is a thought provoking work that attempts to define what photography is and what photography does. Take for example this first photograph taken in 1839. In the photograph a man stopping to have his shoes shined stands still long enough to possibly be the first person ever photographed. He wasn't even cognizant of the fact, he was oblivious of the moment that he made history. Perhaps he never knew. This idea intrigues me. A photograph is like a fossil of the present. The man having his shoes shined experienced time as a continuum. He got up that morning, walked down a street, stopped to have his shoes shined. Unbeknown to him from some distant vantage point Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre set up his camera and made a long exposure of the buildings below and froze his moment for eternity. After he paid the shoe shiner he walked off in to the future and mortality but that little slice of time remained trapped and frozen in a photograph. Like that arrow of time that Einstein described he is in motion coming from the past and hurtling toward the future but in the present he is perfectly static. The photograph is the manifestation of that concept. Something you can hold in your hand, hang on a wall. A souvenir of time. A camera may be the only device ever made that can do this. All photographs have this precious quality because they record a static moment in a dynamic matrix. All photographs have value and mystery and a secret.


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