photography at a distance; Photography as Representation and Photography to Clarify

photograph by Nan Goldin

“It is only through a distance that we can understand the world”

-Jack Goldstein

I believe photography is intimate and the more personal it becomes, the better the photograph.

Widow, by Jost Franko which I briefly posted about here along with more well known bodies of work, such as Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, make for a good case.

photograph by Jost Franko

Goldstein’s statement is seemingly in conflict with what I believe about photography.  But I’m also a bit of an existentialist and I believe we could better understand ourselves if we could remove ourselves from our own existence.

In Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger the main character Meursault, throughout the bulk of the story, understands his existence based solely on sensory experience.  He merely attributes the killing of an Arab man on the beach to the physical effects the sun has on his body.  It is only through his death that Meursault recognizes some meaning of his own existence.

Since we can’t die on a regular basis (at least not physically) in order to better understand ourselves I believe we can rely on photography.  Photography tends to transverse perspective, clarifying our sensory experiences into an understandable frame. It displaces our reliance on our senses. That is why photography can be both representational and removed, and personal and acute; more accurate than our own perspectives and sensory existences. It is more representational of reality than reality itself.

Short of our own death, it removes us from our own existence, clarifies our existence,
and “through a distance” allows us to see.

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