All over a spark

The originary is the origin. There is nothing beyond the origin.

Place yourself at a desk facing an open window. Put blank paper in front of you and take hold of a pencil. Start drawing the scene appearing outside the open window that is facing you. Set yourself an infinite amount of time to complete the task. At each iteration precise further and further the detail in your sketched scene. Remember that you have infinite time to complete this task. What will the end (?) result look like? Something like a photograph, no? Well, at a certain point you ought to be seeing cells and stuff, if you, that is, happen to be detailing organic stuff. And, that is, if cell theory is of any worth. Well, you could say that you skipped that part and went straight to the atomic… reductionism at its very best! Pencil marks? Grain? Pixels? Atoms? All seem like the same stuff – roundish blobs. All this goes to show that the photograph indexes no reality. The indexicality in a photograph confounds us, making us think reality as having necessarily caused the photograph (and, therefore, the photograph as necessarily having faithfully indexed that same reality). That the two end up looking practically the same is of no relevance (even though it is primarily this perceptive alignment that causes erroneous, misshapen ideas about the notion of indexicality in a photograph). The image on the surface of the photograph is an arbitrary image. Indexicality confounds, language being the confounding factor. The world is scum, and the photograph is the world’s dustbin. Language comes to realise that here we are dealing with the same kind of trash. When we find the photograph, that is to say, when we come to see ‘the photographic’, we effectually participate in the transubstantiation of the trace. We photograph to keep the trace (which is, in any case, nowhere out there, nor anywhere registered in the photograph). The photograph is simultaneously repository and observatory. The trace belongs to the representation and representations are nothing other than the symbolic dimension. Here lies the contradiction: ‘the photographic’ is the it is what it is and finds itself in the symbolic dimension, can only exist as such within the symbolic dimension, this without confounding itself, or compounding, with the symbol. The represented, necessarily ‘the photographic’, is the presence entrapped in the symbol. To sum up: the presence, hence the represented, is that which is embedded or entrapped within the symbolic dimension, which is nothing other than the representation itself. 

The indexicality of the photograph is explained in the following manner: the tree is there – fact! The photography apparatus need not (in fact, it does not) see anything, simply because since the tree is there, then the tree must be there, and the photograph will show the tree as being there, simply because the tree was there. Photographs are (necessarily) indexical, no? Photographs are photographs, no? And the tree couldn’t have happened to be anywhere else but there, simply because it was there, and, therefore, couldn’t have been anywhere else but there (and because it happened to be there, the photograph attested so). ‘The photographic’ does state after all that it is always what it is. But this true meaning of the indexicality of the photograph ought not to be thought of as being caused by or as being indicative of ‘the photographic’. The indexicality of the photograph is the inadvertent alignment or association between the historical – photography – and the atemporal, ‘the photographic’. After all, photography ought to produce photographs, not any other kind of images. ‘The photographic’ is that knowing that it can never be what it is.

The photography apparatus is a programmed apparatus without a programme; it simply relies on indexicality, which in turn is simply reliant on the probable (the probable being that logic which states that if something was seen or is being seen it must necessarily have been or is in front of). The ‘programme’ of the photography apparatus is based on the reality programme. The question would then be: why the need for the photographic act?

I thinking to myself am not the subject represented in the representation of myself. The mind is fetish. This I myself retains its subjectivity somatosensorially, as first felt. (This first felt is in reality the most indirectly related to me. It is always felt as relative to.)

‘The photographic’, the adjective turned into a noun, does not give in to objectification.

To maintain reality is to maintain illiteracy. How does reality adopt the necessary characteristics to be effectively displayed by photography as what it is? The photography apparatus always stands upfront.

The photography apparatus will photograph any shit… standing in front of it.

L’obbiettivo lacrima come l’occhio.

Seeing is seeing. A photograph is a seeing done for you (in the same sense as when one says to another, “this is a drawing I did for you” [although it should be stated that strictly speaking a drawing in itself is a seen not a seeing]).

Dalí 1946. The Temptation of St. Anthony. [painting]

Photography, unlike painting, must always face its subject (as long as what one wants to photograph is other to the invisible or to the hidden – or to the past).The indexicality of the photograph indexes the trace, ‘the photographic’, which remains absent in the actual photograph; the photograph, as surface, is a register blind to the trace. The peculiar nature of the indexicality inherent to photography is founded on the fact that states that every eye, irrespective of the organism’s general organisational structure, must tear. The organism known as the photography apparatus does not tear through itself.

Photography is the only tool, apart from LSD, that manages to objectify sense (to be absolutely correct, though, some weak representation is carried over from the sense of smell to the sense of taste). Photography causes hallucinations. ‘The photographic’ is the trace that stands by the photograph. Strictly speaking, the beholder beholding the photograph is the photograph.

‘The photographic’ is intent on

Visual perception is the only sense that is not othered. I am the Other. 

Life is pointless and it finds a reason to be so. 

(Focusing on and focusing) is a latent representation as part of the process of visual perception. The represented indicates trace in absentia. The pixel is the quintessential symbol of reality (“How does one take a measure of reality?” “Just count the pixels on the longest side”). Now within a representation, that is, within the symbolic dimension – now as the pixelated, the represented looms above its symbolic vacuousness; the represented is henceforth indistinguishable from the pixelated support which gives it substance. It is vision and yet eludes vision.

The temporality of ‘the photographic’ is atemporality.

I cannot reproduce the Winter Garden Photograph. It exists only for me. For you, it would be nothing but an indifferent picture, one of the thousand manifestations of the “ordinary”; it cannot in any way constitute the visible object of a science; it cannot establish an objectivity, in the positive sense of the term; at most it would interest your studium: period, clothes, photogeny; but in it, for you, no wound.

BARTHES 2000: 73

Featured Image:

Esso. April 2022 at Paola, Malta. Photograph by the author.


BARTHES, Roland. 2000. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (1980). Translated by Richard Howard. London: Vintage Books.


Salvador DALÍ. 1946. The Temptation of St. Anthony. [painting]. Arthive [online]. Available at: [accessed 24 May 2022; photograph of computer screen by the author].