“To see oneself, (differently in a mirror) : on the scale of History, this action is recent, the painted, drawn, or miniaturized portrait having been, until the spread of Photography, a limited possession, intended moreover to advertise a social & financial status — and in any case, a painted portrait, however close the resemblance (this is what I am trying to prove) is not a photograph.
Odd that no one has thought of the disturbance (to civilization) which this new action causes. I want a History of Looking. For the Photograph is the advent of myself as other: a cunning dissociation of consciousness from identity. Even odder: it was before Photography that men had the most to say about the vision of the double. Heautoscopy was compared with hallucinosis; for centuries this was a great mythic theme. But today it is as if we repressed the profound madness of Photography: it reminds us of its mythic heritage only by that faint uneasiness which seizes me when I look at “myself” on a piece of paper.
“For me, the Photographer’s organ is not his eye (which terrifies me) but his finger: what is linked to the trigger of the lens, to the metallic shifting of the plates (when the camera still has such things). I love these mechanical sounds in an almost voluptuous way, as if, in the Photograph, they were the very thing — and the only thing — to which my desire clings, their abrupt click breaking through the mortiferous layer of the Pose. For me the noise of Time is not sad: I love bells, clocks, watches — and I recall that at first photographic implements were related to techniques of cabinetmaking and the machinery of precision: cameras, in short, were clocks for seeing, and perhaps in me someone very old still hears in the photographic mechanism the living sound of the wood.”
“Do I add to the images in movies? I don’t think so; I don’t have time: in front of the screen, I am not free to shut my eyes; otherwise, opening them again, I would not discover the same image; I am constrained to a continuous voracity; a host of other qualities; but not pensiveness; whence the interest, for me, of the photogram.”
“Yet the cinema has a power which at first glance the Photograph does not have: the screen (as Bazin has remarked) is not a frame but a hideout; the man or woman who emerges from it continues living: a “blind field” constantly doubles our partial vision. Now, confronting millions of photographs, including those which have a good stadium, I sense no blind field: everything which happens within the frame dies absolutely once the frame is passed beyond. When we define the Photograph as a motionless image, this does not mean only that the figures it represents do not move; that they do not emerge, do not leave: they are anesthetized and fastened down, like butterflies.”
“Not a just image, just an image,” Godard says.
“Painting can feign reality without having seen it. […] Contrary to these imitations, in Photography I can never deny that the thing has been there. There is a superimposition here: of reality and of the past. And since this constraint exists on for Photography, we must consider it, by reduction, as the very essence, the noeme of Photography. What I internationalize in a photograph (we are not yet spacing of film) is neither Art nor Communication, it is Reference, which is founding order of Photography.”
“In the daily flood of photographs, in the thousand forms of interest they seem to provoke, it may be clear that the noeme “That-has-been” is not repressed (a noeme cannot be repressed) but experienced with indifference, as a feature which goes without saying.”
“According to a paradoxical order — since usually we verify things before declaring them “true” — under the effect of a new experience, that of intensity, I had induced the truth of the image, the reality of its origin; I had identified truth and reality in a unique emotion, in which I henceforth placed the nature — the genius — of Photography, since no painted portrait, supposing that it seemed “true” to me, could compel me to believe its referent had really existed.”
[Before the age of patamodern doubt of a photographs reality.]
“…Even in the interval of a millionth of a second (Edgerton’s drop of milk) […] I inevitably include in my scrutiny the thought of that instant, however brief, in which a real thing happened to be motionless in front of the eye.”
“This explains why the Photograph’s noeme deteriorates when this Photograph is animated and becomes cinema: in the Photograph, something has passed in front of this same tiny hole: this pose is swept away and denied by a continuous series of images: it is a different phenomenology, and therefore a different art which begins here, though derived from the first one.”
“The Photograph does not necessarily say what is no longer, but only and for certain what has been. This distinction is decisive. In front of a photograph, our consciousness does not necessarily take a nostalgic path of memory (how many photographs are outside of individual time), but for every photograph existing in the world, the path of certainty: the Photograph’s essence is to ratify what it represents.”
“Every photograph is a certificate of presence.”
[Not so, in the patamodern age.]
“From a phenomenological viewpoint, in the Photograph, the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation.”
“Photography can reveal (in the chemical sense of the term), but what it reveals is a certain persistence of the species.”
Proust said that “his face had remained that of his lineage, anterior to his individual soul.” The Photograph is like old age: even in its splendor, it disincarnates the face, manifests its genetic essence.”
“Lineage reveals an identity stronger, more interesting than legal status — more reassuring as well, for the thought of origins soothes us, whereas that of the future disturbs us, agonizes us; but this discovery disappoints us because even while it asserts a permanence (which is the truth of the race, not my own), it bares the mysterious difference of beings issuing from one and the same family: what relation can there be between my mother and her ancestor, so formidable, so monumental, so Hugolian, so much the incarnation of the inhuman distance of the Stock?”
“Oh, if there were only a look, a subject’s look, if only someone in the photographs were looking at me! For the Photograph has this power — which it is increasingly losing, the frontal pose being most often considered archaic nowadays — of looking me straight in the eye (here, moreover, is another difference: in film, no one ever looks at me: it is forbidden — by the Fiction).
[?!!!? ^ amazing pre-proliferation of postmodern 4th wall]
“The photographic look has something paradoxical about it which is sometimes to be met with in life: the other day, in a cafe, a young boy came in alone, glanced around the room, and occasionally his eyes rested on me; I then had the certainty that he was looking at me without however being sure that he was seeing me: an inconceivable distortion: how can we look without seeing? Once might say that the Photograph separates attention from perception, and yields up only the former, even if it is impossible without the latter; this is the aberrant thing, noses without noeme, an action of thought without thought, an aim without target. And yet it this scandalous movement which produces the rarest quality of an ait. That is the paradox: how can one have an intelligent air without thinking about anything intelligent, just by looking into this piece of black plastic? It is because the look, eliding vision, seems held back by something anterior. […] What pitiable, lacerating pensiveness! In fact, he is looking at nothing; he retains within himself his love and his fear: that is the Look.
Now the look, if it insists (all the more, if it lasts, if it traverses, with the photograph, Time) — the Look is always potentially crazy: it is at once the effect of truth and the effect of madness.”
ELEMENTS OF SEMIOLOGY, last line
“…the essential aim of semiological research (that is, what will be found last of all) may be precisely to discover the systems’ own particular time, the history of forms.”