The photographic is the act of recognition.
The pictorial is the look that makes us want to (keep on) look(ing).
Photographs and paintings can both evince the photographic.
A photograph can labour to attain the pictorial.
A painting necessarily evinces primarily the pictorial.
But is it wholly correct to say that a painting necessarily evinces primarily the pictorial? Elsewhere, we said that the only thing that differentiates a photographic image from a painted image is the technique employed to produce one or the other. We can refine further on that stated differentiation between a photographic image and a painted image. We can now simply say that a photograph is not done by hand and a painting is done by hand.
Let us pause the argument here and return to our previous statement in which we declared that a painting necessarily evinces primarily the pictorial.
What if a photograph or a painting evinces neither the photographic nor the pictorial? How shall we classify such a resultant image? It would essentially be a ‘nothing’ image. We can visualise such a case very easily if we only rummage in the dustbin of history. A ‘nothing’ painting could be any one of those small darkened painted religious icons usually found littering the side altars in churches – ‘nothing’ paintings merely executed to comply with the commissioner’s exigencies and that only evince a complete slackening of discipline on the part of the painter.
What about ‘nothing’ photographs? Just briefly visualise the endless snaps posted on social media platforms and that will be enough to illustrate the concept of a ‘nothing’ photograph. As for that particular case when the ‘nothing’ photograph comes from the hands of a master photographer, we shall give a good example of that later on in this post.
We started this post by stating that the photographic is the act of recognition. To recognise is to infer the essential. The photographic is the act of recognising the truth.
In the introduction to this post, we also stated that the pictorial is the look that makes us want to (keep on) look(ing). The pictorial is the beautiful.
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is allJohn Keats, ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ (KEATS 49-50)
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
Clearly, the idiot who purportedly wrote those lines did not live long enough. For had he lived up to the present day, he would have noticed that with the dawning of what I termed the post-aesthetic age, truth and beauty have come to nothing.
What is left then in this post-aesthetic age?
Revelation is not the truth constructed for a fictitious society to be able to thrive miserably happily (think of the car battery supplying electricity to the rest of the machine). Revelation is not like beautiful painted cherubs on humid, fissured walls. Revelation is not Man’s.
Revelation is the universe speaking.
Let us now exemplify the case spoken of earlier of the master photographer producing a ‘nothing’ photograph. Peter Beard, God bless his soul, is said to have taken the following photograph.
Clearly, Mr. Beard, after having printed the photograph, was not able to tell which way was up, as attested by his inscription that appears at the bottom of the (inverted) photograph. It is good to note that this same photograph appeared in a book, and there the editor (whoever s/he was, god bless her/his soul in any case) had some foresight and printed the photograph in the book the right way up.
Now, the above photograph as it appears in the aforementioned book has all the hallmarks of a ‘nothing’ photograph: prosaic, dull, merely documentary.
And Mr. Beard’s confusion with the photograph’s right orientation was one of history’s most glorious happenstances. Upside down, as it appears above, the photograph is not true or beautiful; upside down, the photograph is revelatory.
Photographs, being not done by hand, just like the world is not done by hand, steal a dynamic from the world, namely the world.
The photograph is the world.
This is so clearly the case in Mr. Beard’s fluke. We read in the inverted image all that the universe has been trying to utter for so long: you live in a sick present and a glorious future awaits.
In the post-aesthetic age, photographs and paintings needn’t be truthful or pretty.
Works rightfully belonging to the post-aesthetic age, exercised with the precision of the geometer, reveal, just like Aletheia did to the ancient Greeks.
KEATS, John. ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’. Poetry Foundation (2020). [online]. Available at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44477/ode-on-a-grecian-urn [accessed 9th May 2020].
Peter BEARD. 1965. Croc Weigh (Reflections in Natural History), Lake Rudolf (Memento Photograph). Fahey/Klein Gallery [online]. Available at: http://www.faheykleingallery.com/artists/peter-beard/featured-works?view=slider#11 [accessed 9th May 2020].
Sub Pop Records. No Title. Available at: https://giphy.com/gifs/subpoprecords-mudhoney-digital-garbage-kill-yourself-live-Xtg5Q1rzNjAJlWvL74 [accessed 9th May 2020].