On Photography, After Susan
Susan Sontag’s book, On Photography, published in 1977, angered many photographers for its description of an image-soaked world, decades before the internet would channel that stream into the phone in our pocket. Haunted by mortality, photographs, cut into the passing of time; every selfie is a memento mori. As if to refute this unwelcome knowledge, digital images, with their vivaciousness and disposability, repress the sense of nostalgia-before-the-fact which defines the photographic message. The weight of photographs, as Sontag describes them, in meditations often linked with tragedy, is lightened. The vulnerability of the latent image, captured but unprocessed, hardens into certainty.
The exhibition, On Photography collects attempts to resist predictability, unearthing the instability that underlies even the most banal of photographic activities. The exhibition is composed of works that may not read as photographs at all; large photograms made by moonlight, a tabletop covered in dirt removed from a flood site, a cyanotype covered in the history of rituals, faded prints of a woodland religious camp crumbling into a shooting range, a video of indeterminate images. Yet as attempts to trace realities that cannot be fully resolved or known, they speak to to the genuinely elusive function of photography more clearly than more readily decipherable pictures.
Peter Perrone, a close friend of Ms. Sontag was invited to mediate her voice for this project. He has chosen quotations from On Photography and paired them with contemporary stories. In the course of our work, he mentioned that he still dreams about Susan. And perhaps he is not alone. Nearly 40 years after they were written, her observations have become so omnipresent as to seem commonplace; we rely on Freud’s dream language of condensation and displacement keep their implications below the surface.
– Nancy Barton
Jared Handlesman, photograms exposed with moonlight, automobile headlights, altered with handheld light sources, and photographic chemistry during development
Katherine Bauer, aka Kitty Monteray
The Veil, cyanotype on fabric exposed during sequential performances
Projected Materialization, 16mm projector and mixed media