Thursday, 12 July 2007

The Virtual Photograph: Haunted Absence

The photographs that seem to haunt me the most are the ones that remain undeveloped, sealed virtualities residing in cameras or dark anonymous film canisters like some particularly toxic or explosive chemical.

Insofar as photographs (as Bazin and Cavell recognised), even before they come to signify or resemble it, actually “embalm” reality, then the undeveloped photograph serves to withhold the preserved dead face of reality from our gaze. A gap opens up where I am unable to maintain, through my gaze, even the paradoxical presence to the absence of reality offered by the actualised photograph. Here reality’s absence assumes a dreadful weight even more haunting and acute than that provoked by the photograph. The undeveloped photograph remains sealed up like the ashes of a dead reality, haunting through its exacerbated absence. The doubled real world of the photograph, when it remains hidden and unmanifested, comes to haunt the actual world of the present with a different and more terrible form of absence. For that reason the virtual photographic image becomes a haunting object of impossible desire and impossible memory. This website has some beautifully haunting images developed from old cameras containing forgotten and undeveloped images.

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