Photographs are often thought of as ways to hold things still, to calm the flux of a restless world. They allow us to gaze at fixed appearances, for pleasure or knowledge, or both.
Photographs confuse as much as fascinate, conceal as much as reveal, distract as much as compel. They are unpredictable communicators. They cannot carry meanings in any straightforward way. A single photograph is unable to account for the appearance it describes, or even account for itself.
All of this leaves photography open to those wanting to take charge of it, to use it in one way or another. Broadly, there are two ways this happens. The first is to give photography pictorial conventions. Images that follow a formula are less likely to surprise, and will give the impression of meeting needs and expectations, of being ‘functional’. Through convention, photography masks its madness. The second way is to accompany photographs with words. Writing, speech, discourse.
.. photographs work upon us in ways we still barely comprehend.
On Photographs . David Campany
Thames & Hudson (UK) forthcoming, 2020
An exploration of photography in 120 photographs.