Ça a été
In photography’s early days, William Henry Fox Talbot expounded on photography’s indexicality in his treatise The Pencil of Nature, describing how “light inscribes herself onto paper.” Later Nadar wrote of Honoré de Balzac’s theory of photographs as spectral layers of the living fixed to paper with silver, the essence and being of the pictured person a part of the image itself. The new technology of the 19th century thus danced between the occult and the optical, possessed by spirits of the past while serving as traces of the real.
This history continues to haunt the medium, and my photographs hover between being indexical records of the light before my camera lens and fractured commentaries on the limits and fallacies of memory and human perception. The physical detritus of other people’s stories provide the surfaces I capture with the finger prints, stains, and tears that attest to human hands on precious objects years and years ago. Like Barthes’s pierces and pokes that continually wound, my pictures of the reflected light of photographie argentique collapse time and space in a complex interplay between the embodied and the disembodied, the past and the present, and the living and the dead.
Viewed as a collection, the images create speculative narratives by suturing together unrelated moments, referencing traditions of family photography and 19th century photographs born of the Spiritualist movement. In performative act of documentation, I posit a question: can my camera see the same light that others once saw? Can I create, in my present, a trace of what once was?