The mystery of distance

The nature of things loves to hide


A great enigma: whether photography is a movement towards things themselves, or only towards their appearance. But our perception of the real is, already in itself, a form of appearance. In this sense the real is eternally “outside”; we only see shadows and reflections.

For this reason, more than telling us anything about the real, photography may be acknowledging and detecting the space, the distance between the real and ourselves. A spatial and psychical distance. A distance that is essentially a relation to the real, and consequently the expression of a dynamism, a vitality, a depth in our relationship to the world.

This is why the thing photographed is often more interesting than the thing seen. It is not the object of representation that generates the affect, but the aura of its distance and spatial depth enigmatically transfixed on a surface. Hence the importance of form, of the aesthetic dimension, of harmonic proportions, all of which conceal the mystery of space itself.

Ourselves and others, ourselves and the world: necessary oppositions at the heart of the principle of relation that is the very foundation of life. Consciousness must venture out if it wishes to survive. Consciousness must imbue itself with the world. Despite being something other than the world, consciousness must let the world through - a world manifesting as visible appearance. The subject would be nothing if they were excluded from a world that continually fills it and passes through it. And for consciousness even emptiness is a form of plenitude. Where are, then, the limits of consciousness?

Also in a photograph, apparently motionless and inscribed within its borders, the real continues to live beyond the limits of the frame. And if the visible is not merely a blind illusion of perception, but an emanation of something situated on the other side, the real continues to live beyond the very surface of the image. Where are, then, the limits of a photograph?

For this reason photography speaks about a depth that is a distance: alongside the distance-relation with the things represented, the distance-relation with the presence-absence of that which is not represented (as it is outside the frame) and the distance-relation with the presence-absence of that which is not representable (as it is beyond the visible).

Finally, the subject can choose whether to consider the visible surface as an illusion and a barrier between us and the real, or rather as a sign, a message, a gateway to a vastly unknown and unknowable reality. This second option will lead to a form of epoché, a suspension of judgement: not the epoché of the negative skeptic, but that of those who, as they confront themselves with the immense ocean of the unseen, welcome the possibility of every impossibility, in the hope of the divine.

(September 2019)

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