Silent Witness, Photography in the Modern Age by Robert Abramson

'Epoche is a Greek term that describes the theoretical moment where all belief in the existence of the real world, and consequently all action in the real world, is suspended...this concept was developed by Aristotle and plays an implicit role in skeptical thought, as in René Descartes' radical epistemic principle of methodic doubt. The prominent phenomenological philosopher Edmund Husserl picks up the notion of 'phenomenological epoché' in his influential work Cartesian Meditations where the world is 'lost in order to be regained through placing the epoche and thereby 'bracketing' the world.'

Once while I was standing in front of the instant photo booth in the Gare de Lyon in Paris, a fellow emerged from the booth to wait for his photographs. I was there long enough for the machine to make the expected noise indicting that the process had ended and the photos were about to emerge. In a moment the strip of black and white squares dropped into the retrieval bin. The fellow removed the photos and studied them with amused look. Finally, unable to keep his amusement to himself he asked me "I don't look like this, do I"? The machine had apparently malfunctioned while processing the previous sitter's portraits and she had left, assuming she would never see the photo results. It was due to anticipation of one result and getting another, and the exaggerated difference that the incident became so hilarious for both of us.

The photographic image is proof of two things. One, the world really exists and two, we will never know that real world; we are sure it exists and we are sure we do not and will not know it. The photographic image is not just a sliver of the moving time/space but, too, it is a desiccated segment of that Now. The moment is Real but by capturing it with an instrument it becomes an illusion, a wonderful contrivance.

Photography in the modern world has exposed a real past, not just an assumption. However, this particular past has come out of the bloodless mechanism recording the moment. There is no sound, no smell, no light imperceptibly moving through the scene; a stagnant moment. How, than, do we set the criteria of a great photo? Is it in this issue; returning the image to a state of grace or equilibrium with the flowing moment? Because the camera records as a silent witness we feel the empty space and our consciousness struggles to move it along as when a body of work is born of a theme.

Great photographers have a discernable style. Are we finding in that style the movement missing in the ordinary photographic work? Also, perhaps, a sequence of events (photo-event) plays a role. If the viewer can feel a causal connection to oneself, or the Past moment in the illusion of the photo (a part of the force of what is implicit in the photo) then something great is in the photograph. I am thinking of two great works in photography: Stiegliz's "Steerage" and Adam's "Moon over Hernandez".
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