Out of this World

Utatane. Rinko Kawauchi

How can we perceive our world through photography? Are there any boundaries between reality and illusion, between the representative and transformative nature of photography? Photography is a medium of exploration and discovery, shaping the way we look at our micro and macrocosm.  Using photography we can not only see but also imagine the world in various ways, we we can approach the unseen, the unreal, and the magical.

Photography is magic. It recreates the world as a world of wonders for us, granting us access into timelessness. It freezes time and invites us to discover what is in front of our eyes but we miss to recognize; like in Rinko Kawauchi’s or Issei Suda’s work, where photography is capturing the extraordinary that exists within the ordinary,  directing our gaze toward another world, towards the human soul. Or like in Sarah Moon’s realm of dreams, myths, and fears with her blurry enchanted portraits and landscapes.

The work of a lifetime, photographs 1968-2006. Issei Suda

Furthermore, a “faked” real-life reality can be constructed to blend with the memory of a real reality; like Thomas Demand, who creates life-size environments made of paper and cardboard, accurate down to the smallest detail and completely devoid of people, leading us into a world of models, investigating the concept of virtual reality. At first sight, his images seem like depictions of everyday places. Yet on closer inspection they turn out to be reconstructions of reality.

Thomas Demand’s Sink – Jan Groover’s “real” Sink

Ultimately, reality can be reframed around the idea of magic, illusion, and material transformation, using mixed media, appropriation and a recalibration of analog processes as presented in Charlotte Cotton’s book Photography is magic. In Signal noise by Aaron Rothman, “landscapes overtaken by digital noise, layering, erasure, amplification, and interference examine the blurry boundaries between natural and artificial, between real and virtual, and between the world and how we perceive it”.

Signal noise. Aaron Rothman

Joan Fontcuberta in the book The Photography of Nature & The Nature of Photography confronts our anxieties about photography functioning as a system of representation instead of as a system of fiction. Through careful scientific-like fabrications, accompanied by clues and inconsistencies he questions the veracity of the medium and challenges our trust.  In a recent edit of Joan Fontcuberta’s archive for the book Contravisiones by Israel Ariño and Montse Puig, the editors searched “for elements that tend towards the unreal, the magical and the oneiric”. What an image conceals rather than reveals, is what awakens our imagination and touches our inner world.

Contravisiones. Joan Fontcuberta

Even for example after landing on the moon, the moon remains a symbol of our dreams, desires, and fears, a source of inspiration. As Maarten Dings and Joachim Naudts remind us with their book Moon, Photographing the Moon 1840–Now, “Do we now know, thanks to the impressive photographic archive, what the moon really looks like? Or Luna still appears as an immense fictional and imaginary landscape? Perhaps the moon can only be contained by maintaining our distance. Let us forget we’ve ever been there and start dreaming again.”

Moon, Photographing the Moon 1840–Now. Maarten Dings and Joachim Naudts

Out of this World presents a selection of books from the ICP Library showing how photography, through representation or transformation, interprets or even reconstructs our world, and  challenges our logic and vision beyond the obvious and the visible. Human nature, science and fiction, history, our cosmos, the natural and built environment, and our relationship with it, constitute some of the main themes of the suggested bibliography, explored in so many more or less “lifelike” ways, representing what we perceive as “out of this world”.

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