I started to change my initial judgement of dismissing the scanned seascapes as flawed and failures. If we think in terms of visuality, or the difference introduced into human seeing by traditional cultural meaning consolidated and reconfigured in images, then these film-based images should be interpreted as being different to the digital seascapes. that I was using as a standard. The blurriness of the former makes them akin to images made with a pinhole camera. So I accepted the different look of these scanned images.
These medium format images — including some black and white ones — were designed to be supplementary to the large format seascapes that I was doing around the same time, and which I considered to be superior. Though supplementary the medium format images do stand on their own. They are supplementary, not in the sense of addressing the insufficiency of, or a lack within, the large format images, but as an addition to that enriches the large format images.
The process of the breaking down of the photographic image has emptied it of detail and sharpness which is what photography as a medium was normally celebrated for. The characteristics we have are blurriness and vagueness not sharpness or clarity.
The fuzzy images are so lacking in detail that they become abstractions and in doing so challenge the intentionality of the photographer caught up in the Cartesian dream of centring the sovereign subject (cogito) and clear and distinct as the royal road to certainty. These are images in whose formation the photographer played only a nominal role. The images disclose a world that exceeds or punctures through the view of the photographer when I was making the photo. My field of vision at the time did not see what these photos disclosed. Hence their initial rejection.
The implication or inference is that these photos displace the primary emphasis of the operator behind the machine in the making of the photos. What is revealed is uninformed by the camera as a technological extension of the photographer’s look, way of seeing, or field of vision with its industrialised (and now computational language) of “to take”, “to point”, “to capture”, or “to shoot” a photo.
This disclosure, in the sense of unlocking, is a process of opening an awareness of the “totality;” or to speak differently, the world’s away of revealing itself to us. The conception of photography as a disclosure of the world decenters the operator behind the machine and the rejects the art historical understanding of photography that insists on human agency and intention as the only valid shaper of meaning in the medium. Moreover, understanding photography as a disclosure of the world highlights how the postmodern emphasis on representational primacy of images lost sight of the medium’s deep connection with the world and our own position within it.
After writing the post I came across Kaja Silverman’s book The Miracle of Analogy, or the History for Photography, Part 1 (Stanford University Press, 2015). This ontological account of photography jettisons the long-standing notion of the photograph as a physical index or exact representation and dispenses equally with questions of intentionality or authorship. Silverman argues that photography can offer a “disclosive rather than evidentiary form of truth” —a self-disclosure of the world rather than a way of understanding it. Her argument is that pre-industrial photography especially allows for the “self-disclosure of the world”—“the ‘coming forward’ or ‘presencing’ of the world through self-presentation,” through which the world is the author of its own images.