February 1, 2012

Rewriting Exposure, Deux

I'm beginning to realize (OK, I've know this for some time) that I have a picture phobia--not in general, just of me. I've been avoiding the official university photographer for months now--something for the new website. I do not have a prop to bring in: and may I say, this kind of thing makes me ill. Which is to say, it seems ironic...now that I am rewriting Exposure.

To expose is to make something visible, to uncover it. And there, it is unprotected. It is subject to light, weather, ridicule, scorn. It is vulnerable. Barthes says, and I am paraphrasing because I cannot locate my copy of Camera Lucida at this moment, that what the photograph reproduces has only occurred once. The still frame creates a fixed moment--as if that photo "captures" your essence. Or essentializes you in some way. The photo defines you--or defines a moment. So what is the impact of that photo being replayed again and again--like at the start of a war or moments after a disaster. What is the impact of overexposure? The image is not the event, but a replica of the event. But it is difficult to see this--to see the distance between an image and its referent. Because the "real" aspect of the photo makes the viewer forget the referent, even if the photo is taken in order to remember--ostensibly.

To expose is to reveal the true nature of something. But take out a photo of yourself, and recall the moments just before the photo and the moments just after. What wasn't captured? What wasn't revealed? 

In a month, we will round the anniversary of the earthquake in Japan. One image marks my memory--so frightening, that I cannot really begin to describe it here. In short: folks running up a hill, trying to escape the tsunami. But what of the moments before that image, and what of the moments after? What wasn't captured? What wasn't revealed? While it only occurred once, it plays toward infinity in my mind.