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This post is a continuation of ‘Sketches #4 — Photographing the unseen’ at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/sketches-4-photographing-the-unseen/

In her book ‘At the Edge of Sight. Photography and the unseen’ (Smith, 2013) Shawn Michelle Smith discusses an idea Roland Barthes explored in ‘Camera Lucida’, that of photography as always being a representation of ‘that-has-been’ (Smith, 2013: 23). Later as counterpoint Smith explores the work of F. Holland Day (b.1864), specifically:

In the summer of 1898, in the countryside of Norwood, Massachusetts, Day and a group of friends performed the Life and Passion of Christ, together making over 250 photographs, with Day himself cast in the central role … (Smith, 2013: 39).

Smith says of these photographs:

The “photograph’s physical relationship to the object or person it represents” is precisely what Day’s work unsettles. Drawing on a repertoire of pictorialist aesthetic strategies, Day separates photographic signifier from signified, altering and expanding the indexicality of the photograph, transforming Roland Barthes’s “that-has-been” into “imagine this” (Smith, 2013: 41).

Gallery ‘The constant imagine this’

In this Assignment the unseen to be photographed is ‘need (dissatisfaction, desire)’ and I choose to do this by attempting to capture a sense of the constant exposure to outdoor graphic advertisements that city dwellers are subjected to as they go about the modern city (advertisements that for the most part attempt to generate new needs or pander to old previously manufactured ones). These graphic advertisements almost by definition fall into the category ‘imagine this’ (above) rather than the ‘that-has-been’. However, the photographs taken for the Assignment fall necessarily in the latter category yet seek to capture the ‘imagine this’ quality of advertisements. When the viewer looks at the Assignment images, ideally they should become aware of the fact that they are looking at an advertisement, i.e. see only the ‘that-has-been’. However, the Assignment image number 12142414 (see fig.1.) in some way combines the two modes in that the photograph itself strengthens the ‘imagine this’ element of the advertisement. This can be seen also in image number 12140873 in the Gallery above.

This post continues with ‘Sketches #6 — Photographing the unseen’ at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/sketches-6-photographing-the-unseen/


Smith, Shawn Michelle (2013) At the Edge of Sight. Photography and the unseen. London: Duke University Press.

List of Illustrations

Figure 1 Cormac513273 (2014) Sketches #3 — Photographing the unseen image 12142414 At:  https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=951