Beyond the Visible

And by real I mean I wanted my images to have power, to be magic.

– Ana Mendieta  

I am doing my best to keep in touch w [sic] an at times elusive and complicated reality.  

– Wilhelm Reich 

I am interested in photography’s relationship to reality. Throughout the history of the medium, there has been an association between photography and evidence. Because of the photograph’s relationship to the material world (no photograph without its referent), it is imbued with a sense of truth: this really happened, this was really here. Thus, photography’s historical claim to objectivity, to neutrality, to the pure description of the world as it exists before one’s eyes. But what about the more intangible facets of experience– mental states, spiritual ideas and experiences, relationships between people, perception and sensation, the ineffable qualities of being in the world? The artists whose work I’ve selected all deal with these phenomena. 

Photography has a privileged relationship to reality because of the aura of truth it has historically been charged with. A painting is a construction, always doomed to be of a world separate from the one we occupy, a blank space made populous with lines and forms and colors by the hand of the painter. The photograph, however, is understood as being of this world. It is, in its most literal form, a copy of something that was really there: light, shadow, movement, forms. Despite this, the photograph is never unadulterated or unmediated, never purely a document or a construction. But even the most highly constructed, unreal photograph feels real because of its relationship to the sense of sight. The strangest photograph haunts us all the more deeply because of this quality.  

A photograph is always a piece of a piece of reality. There are always goings-on outside the frame, in the periphery, in the minds of photographer and subject, always levels of reality which cannot be photographically depicted. The photographers here turn their cameras towards those levels of reality. They use photography as an expressive medium, not a purely descriptive one. These are images that can be felt, that aren’t distant and objective but immersive and radiating with vitality; images that ask questions rather than answering them, that are expansive rather than exacting, producing uncertain associations in the viewer, where meaning is not singular or fixed but something which unfolds between the photographer, subject, viewer, and the image itself. In all these works, there is something deeper than pure vision, something beyond the appearance of things.

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