We are doing our best to lead a decent life or maybe an intense one, to go through changes or to settle down, to live and let live, but when everything else fails, we still have a wealth of memories or some latent pieces of them, to find refuge.
Now the thing is, how do we trigger them? Senses, sensations mostly visual and phonic, but also olfactory and tactile?
Photographs are one means to do it.
But photographs are too easy of a way. They are direct, palpable, time stamped, rapidly provoking and consuming nostalgia.
The subjects and the objects contained in a photograph’s four corners have no escape. They are all trapped: the younger us, Barthe’s mother, the Easter flowers, our past lovers, our hometown, our home … Barthe’s mother(*).
We look at them and soon we realise that what we carry with us is not visible. Nor possible to describe, to sketch, to paint, even less to capture it in a photograph.
By definition a photograph as soon as it is taken it acquires its status of the “has been”. It becomes instantly the memory of a moment. But simply fetching an exact copy of a memory/moment is not enough for a fulfilling interaction with a photograph.
Moreover, one of the mystic powers of a memory is that it is “overwritten” each time we fetch it. A reality recording photograph does not allow this, usually liberating, re-writting.
That is why the more the allusions, the symbolism, the better the contact with the viewer.
That is why a photograph should be the memory of a memory.
The contextual elements should be minimal or highly implicit. No one needs to be reminded the exact place of their nirvana, oblivion or perdition. They are obfuscated and should remain as such.
The subjects (their positioning, their gestures, their expression) should be ethereal, intangible, in order to create a surprising familiarity despite their anonymity.
During our "Picture of the month" selection I went over some examples of the above concept and I am featuring them here together with my admiration for the endless talent that parades in front of us every day.
PS: In a way, a partial occurrence of the above "memory of a memory" (a photograph of a photograph) could be Antonino Paraggi's ultimate photographic purpose described by Calvino: ¨To get all this into one photograph he had to acquire an extraordinary technical skill, but only then would Antonino quit taking pictures. Having exhausted every possibility, at the moment when he was coming full circle Antonino realized that photographing photographs was the only course that he had left—or, rather, the true course he had obscurely been seeking all this time."
(*) Roland Barthe’s based a whole philosophical diatribe on photography (Camera Lucida) on reflecting on a single picture of his mother.
The Bulb Collective consists of photographers active in urban (and rural) photography with an expressive shift to include highly aesthetic and poetic images in their assignments.