Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Jig-saw pieces

Today, in Metaphysical Journal, I wrote:
I want to understand.

That is why I am here. To puzzle it out, put the pieces together.

Puzzle out myself.

Puzzle out reality.

— The metaphysician in me, I suppose.
The penny dropped five minutes or less after I clicked 'Post'.

Photographs are the jig-saw pieces:

I see now how this can become an all-consuming obsession (as it was for Gary Winogrand, but he's just one of many 'great', i.e. obsessed, committed, photographers).

Putting photographs together cannot solve any problem, not literally. Maybe, at some level, as 'art' (which I deprecated in Metaphysics of the Photograph) photographs in sequence can 'show' something that an individual image cannot.

I agree, in principle, that you judge a photographer by a body of work, rather than individual works, that individual images are not meant, intended to make whatever statement they make in isolation, in the way that a painting — say, by Picasso, or Jackson Pollock — can do. You can write an essay on Pollock, concentrating on just one image. You can't do that with a photograph. (Well, you can, but it would be false, contrived.)

But there's more.

This is where things get philosophical. Richard Wollheim in his book F.H. Bradley comments that the metaphysical impulse towards 'putting things together' has a Kleinian explanation: restoring 'whole objects', reacting to the split between good/ bad objects, the child's fear of his/ her destructive impulses.

'Puzzle out reality' is what I tried to do, in different, but then again not so different ways, as a would-be metaphysician and as a photographer.

How can photographs do this? I'm not entirely sure. Why did I select the three, above? Because they 'said' something other than the merely literal. They have the required ambiguity, which is at the same time a potential capacity for meaning.

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