Let me start this blog post by stating the following premise: it might be incorrect to say, “I took the photo”, but it is definitely correct to say, “I chose the photo”.
Looking back at the work I have collected so far in relation to my studies’ final major project (click here to see this work in progress), I am struck by the fact that every time I look at these photos of the various shipbuilding cranes found on the island, I keep on getting transported to… well, the island I currently call my home, Malta, this albeit the fact that all these images of shipbuilding cranes lack all contextual cues that could aid one looking at them in correctly identifying the location where these shipbuilding cranes are situated. In fact, when looking at these images, the cranes could be located practically anywhere. But, no! My mind perceiving these photos insists that this is Malta, unmistakably Malta – nay, that these photos couldn’t have been taken anywhere else but in Malta. And clearly you, my dear reader, will retort that my mind is saying such things only because it happens to be my mind that is saying these things – my mind, being me, knows that my body, in which I fit, took those photos (at the mind’s command, which is me) here in Malta… and therefore there is no way for me to escape from this ‘purely subjective’ feeling that I experience when looking at these photos.
Looking at the work of Maltese photographer, Stephanie Galea, produced for the November 2019 edition of L’Officiel Hommes Poland (click here to see this body of work), I find myself deliberating this issue of ‘subjectivity’. True, I am aware that the photographer in question is Maltese and that the locations she chose for the shoot are unmistakably and quintessentially Maltese. It therefore stands to reason that I should correctly identify, and easily identify with, the context within those images.
And here, we make our typical U-turn. I clearly do not give a toss whether my photos of the shipbuilding cranes keep drawing me back to Malta or not. The fear is: what if it is all just in my head? If I tangibly feel this draw to this island coming from the images of the shipbuilding cranes, how do I effectively communicate to others this feeling so that they too may experience it and understand that which indeed is just in my head? I could speak to them and tell them my stories… unfortunately, this is a photographic project, so I can only rely on visuals, and maybe some text, to convey information. And, clearly, biographical rubbish feigned as fiction, whether presented visually or textually, has become a very trite tactic.
So trite in fact that I am going to cut short this whole argument. And do another U-turn 🙂
The act of choice in photography is, contrary to the popular disbelief practised by certain disbelievers, extremely palpable, and is mediated by a fully active role taken by the photographer. The photographer is… primum movens. S/he has set everything in preparation for the shot and is now steadying her/his index finger over the shutter release button. And this is the cataclysmic moment! At this specific point in time, the photographer ceases to be… primum movens… and becomes merely a facilitator… s/he knows s/he has done all her/his work, and now, pressing the shutter release button, s/he finds herself/himself in a similar position to Dino Buzzati’s character Giovanni Drogo in ‘Il deserto dei Tartari’: in the end, like Drogo, s/he has to let go of that thing s/he has worked so hard to realise, to give birth to. Maintaining this analogy with the act of giving birth, in photography, as you press that damn button, your ‘child’ is literally snatched away from you the minute ‘the kings of medicine’ (sort out a way how to) cut that ‘umbilical cord’ connecting you two together.
The act of photography is the act of letting go. All the cogs and springs are set in place and you then have to leave the monster to its own devices in order that the ensuing machinations produce their wonder… the photograph. The photograph cannot come to be unless the photographer lets go.
You might recall from a previous post I wrote (click here to read that post), that the concept of this project came to be from the memory I had of a photograph of a shipbuilding crane I had taken as a child during a school boat trip. That photo is now irretrievably and irrevocably lost. Being inversely analogous to the act of photography (understood as the necessary act of letting go in order to create something), this project documents the steps the protagonist has taken back to that lost original image (by way of a series of typologically-related photographs). On reaching the end state, he bids his final adieu and lets go.
Featured Image:The original uploader was The Epopt at English Wikipedia. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons