I found a photograph by a pond, mesmerizing and full of vivid colour. It had no way in or out. That is what the point in the horizon is sometimes called in Finnish, pakopiste, the point of escape for the eye. A vanishing point. Something to locate oneself with, one’s place in relation to the view. Within it or outside it. But when it is concealed? What happens then when there is no point for the eye? I have rewritten these questions several times in search of the right verb that would describe the truth. The truth about myself as a viewer, as the photographer, as a Western white female, as a human being in the cosmos. The eye wanders, my eye wanders. I get lost, immersed or at least I wish that I was. Photography is at times nothing else but a wish, that knee-jerking note in a song.
I know where these considerations will lead me. The story of Western pictorial tradition, its inherent religiousness, from which followed not only rules of composition but entire way of seeing and organizing the world. A man’s place in it, as a human being, subordinate to God. Their desire to present God’s point of view in works of art. As if they could. As if they could. It seems so silly for us now, so unfair. Then the discovery of optics and the invention of the drawing devices. The invention -or was it a discovery- of perspective in pictorial terms, where the view is organised according to the optics of the human eye, standing in the centre but outside the scene. Much like God was thought to be in relation to the universe. Then the storm of Enlightenment and the discoveries of Charles Darwin. God is no longer at the centre of the universe. The man is there now- the man but not the woman. The invention of photography and the subsequent death of painting. Soon followed the death of many things. I can’t remember the exact order of things now and I have for certain missed some events. When did Nietzsche write that ‘God is dead’? How soon after did the French philosophers conclude that the author is dead, as is the man? Before or after the World Wars that butchered thousands and thousands of men –and women- and changed everything.
I haven’t even touched on the problems of photography. The problem of perspective, of representation, of what constitutes the real. I jotting these concepts down like bombs because I am vexed and bewildered. Where does this all leave me, having taken this image of a pond in London? Do I have a responsibility as an artist if I may call myself one? If I do, what is the nature of it? A question which would bring me to another question: what is art? There I can finally, finally throw my hands in the air and say that art is made by artists and Art is made by the Art Institutions. Their bluff has been called and therefore it is clear that art- as well as Art- is subjective. I can point out to the Romantics who sought truth and beauty in nature and seek refuge in their legacy.
That was the last frame of the film and I sat on a bench to change the roll. I noticed the dull light that depresses me so on the top of the trees right in front of me. I have read somewhere that it is the mythical justification of the deadpan aesthetic, this blank daylight which in Greek mythology reveals everything as it is. Joseph Conrad writes in The Secret Agent of the golden dust, haze that is specific to London. Is this the same light, diffused as if through golden dust if only I would be able to see it so? Some other people have mentioned, rather admiringly, the light that is specific to London. I have been here for fifteen years and I haven’t fallen in love with the light in London. I have begun to wonder if I have ever seen it.
I envy the Romantics and Pre-Modernists because they believed in something and their art reflects it. They were free to explore the themes that inspired them. I am not devoid of strong convictions but I was injected with cynicism and fear in Art School. I envy these artists because I myself feel trapped. Straight-jacketed. I am inspired – or am I led? - by values that I feel that I cannot admit that I have and therefore they remain unexamined even by me.
© Carita Silander
Preamble to the London Archive Essays
I asked a few friends and members of family to choose a photograph from the London Archive they would like to know more about. As this premise is my own devising, I have taken the artistic liberties necessary in answering this question. Bar a few exceptions, the result is a series of short essays combining a brief outline of historical information, consideration of photography as a medium as well as an account on how I ended up taking each particular photograph.