Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dreaming of photographs

It's a drag to wake up from a dream where you took photographs because, a) you realize that the photos don't exist, and b) worse, you realize that the places you photographed don't exist. Perhaps can't exist. This is a different kind of grief. What's a photograph but a re-imagining of place, and if that place doesn't exist, then it can only be imagined, not re-imagined. That's a fatal disconnect between place and fantasy: when I photograph a site I hope to discover something, via composition or lighting or angle or filter, that transcends the site itself, that has moved from the reality of the site to somewhere else. When I dream of taking photographs, all I have—all I had—is the somewhere else, the wished-for. William Leith has said, "Photographers never have much incentive to show the world as it is," and I agree, in that the world "as it is" benefits from the surprise or re-presenting of a good photograph, but I disagree in that such a surprise was always  there, waiting to be sprung. When I dream a photograph, the (very) minor grief stems less from, "Oh I can't see those photos!" than from, "Oh I can't see that place." It never was.

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