The Eye's Domain
By Veronica Volkow
Photographers are wanderers, travelers,
and explorers, searching-in the deserts, the villages, on the
roads, in people's faces- for the poetic image, the image that
freezes us in time, that suspends our scrutiny of something outside
us and starts us questioning what is within, that starts us seeing
in a new way. Every true journey on which a photographer takes
us sets off in two directions: outward, to watch the fast-moving
strip of surprises along the road-faces, landscapes, streets-
and inward, into the impelling flow of the internal monologue.
It is a journey that always exposes us to the unknown, renewing
our inquiry. The constant nearness of the unforeseen to which
it exposes us awakens our senses, increasing the eagerness with
which we see, limbering the muscles of the imagination. The being
that we are in relation to space seems to grow larger as it takes
in other colors, other forms, other connections; and as a result,
we seem radically to rethink what, under unfamiliar conditions
and perspectives, we might be. That is perhaps the true passion
of the journey constituted by the photograph: witnessing the advent
of a new, revitalized inner being. In the channel of the spaces
we pass through, we extend and transform ourselves; the narrator
in us speaks and sees in different ways, imagines in other modes.
New frontiers, new shapes of the possible, open up within.
The journey in the photograph
is the closest thing to a poem: both are exercises in perceiving
the unknown, attempts to inhabit new worlds, even if only with
the eyes. The camera registers the essential experience: the appearance
of the poetic image, the original moment that is the source of
consciousness. The image that crystallizes is a medium of knowledge,
a halting language struggling to be born.
Primer dia del verano
(First day of summer)
(Yazın ilk günü),
El mundo de los mayores
(The world of the grown-ups)
East Germany (Doğu Almanya), 1981
Luis Neyra, La pareja
(The couple) (Çift),
Puebla, Mexico, 1976
Skin gives us a body, with volume
and size. The body of our consciousness, though, is other: it
conforms to the space of our vision. The gaze is formed by many
frontiers, now the wall facing us, now the distant horizon; it
flows through the spaces we look at as through a channel or conduit,
including whatever it touches in the mass of the visible. The
body of consciousness changes shape constantly as it travels.
Within it we enlarge ourselves and lose ourselves, pass from distraction
to amazement, from the old and familiar to the unknown. The poetic
image is like a handhold, or a root, locating is in the vast and
passive space that is the eye's domain.
|Hugo Cifuentes, Las aguateras
(The water carriers)
There we perceive and receive ourselves, recover ourselves, grasp
and understand ourselves. Abandoning the neutral surface of the
given, the poetic image enters the depths of links and language.
In the ocean imposed by the eye, it once again takes on skin,
bone, muscles, strength -once again grants us substance.
El musico mayor
(The greatest musician),
(En iyi müzisyen)
Touched by poetry, the photograph
acts like a mirror: the world is in it, but so are we. It captures
and expresses us. We may be looking at external referents -the
image of a mountain, a tree, the face of a child- but these images
allow themselves to be inhabited by us, as the figure in a dream
is inhabited by the dreamer. In the oneiric universe, every character
and object represents, or is performed by, the one who dreams.
The dreamer is what is dreamed -dust, tree, stone. That is why
the term obra de autor (author's work) is used for the kind of
photograph that aims to discover the poetic image. Every poetic
image becomes our own, becomes our soul, is in some way dreamed,
the receptacle of our reveries.
(The Virgin Marry)
Xochimilco, Mexico, 1984
Jose Luis Neyra,
(The nun) (Rahibe),
La Villa de Guadalupe,
Gaston Bachelard, in his Poetics of Space (1969), argues that
every poetic image has a degree of reverberation and a degree
of resonance. Reverberation is rapture, ectasy, and influences
the soul; resonance is heard in the space of the spirit, in the
whole mesh of echoes and connotations that the image awakens.
In its quality of resonance the image speaks in the third person,
displaying the orchestration of its networks; in its quality of
reverberation, on the other hand, the image speaks in the first
person, engaging us in a dialogue, taking possession of us. Our
soul inhabits the poetic image and is made manifest through it.
In confronting one of Abbas's photographs,
then, something in us is transformed into that striated grove,
damaged by dust storms, the tree like nerves numbed by the cold
of the open country. Reverberation reveals the self, capturing
it in the splinter of the image, that fragment of a whole, of
a lost language. The image returns body to us from the soul; it
forms us communes with us.
Jose Luis Neyra,
Plaza de Garibaldi,
Mexico City, Mexico, 1968
In one of Graciela Iturbide's photographs,
children roll in sand, jubilant planets hurled down a steep slope
toward an abyss. We share in the image's giddiness and charm.
A yearning is fulfilled in every poetic encounter: subject and
object are united, mingled. They join in intimacy. But this is
also an archetypal game, and in the photograph the linear time
of reality encounters the archetype of myth, the landmark of desire,
the meaning of dream. A poetic image fabricates us, gives substance
to a shadow.
One never knows when the miracle
will occur -when the eyes of alien beings meet, as in Neyra's
work; in the bric-a-brac of Flores Olea's back rooms; or in Cifuentes's
doll-like dead baby. The poetic image appears not only as body
or presence, but as sign, as promise of meaning, as glyph to disentangle.
It implicates us in its enigma, captures us in its wonder, makes
us inhabit it.
Hugo Cifuentes, "Huanurca" serisinden,
The moment when external perception and an unknown impulse come
together: that is the poetic image. Something of ourselves always
comes to life in the presence of the unknown, the other, the strange.
In the poetic image, we wish to be in some way born to ourselves.