The Sargasso Sea

image 1

image 1

The Sargasso Sea lies at the western edge of the route from Britain to the Caribbean, it is encompassed by currents on all sides and has no land for its waters to break on. The currents north and south of it were responsible for the traffic that populated the islands, re-populated, welcomed and then repatriated for over four centuries.

Colonial rule, that pernicious device of the ‘Old World’ gave rise to the cultural heritage of the islands, providing the backdrop to its history and the population that was ‘peopled’ by its oppressor are left with a legacy that presented itself to me as echoes in varying forms.

These images depict and document how I ‘see’ those reverberations from the past. The patronage and subjugation, and subsequent rise of independence followed by the re-patronage through commercial dependence on the world that created an aberrant society with societal norms that had no connection with their own heritage.

‘The Wide Sargasso Sea’ by Jean Rhys is a novel about displacement, about ‘otherness’, about colonial/post colonial issues (it may also be a feminist novel and even a post-modern novel!). The novel’s situation of a white creole being ousted by her native people and then ending her days in an ‘other’ place – Britain – kept returning to me as I made these images. I saw these symbols of the changing face of colonialism and the effects of post-colonialism, The diasporas of people whose fates have ebbed and flowed, much as the seas between the two continents have, still holding those islanders in a place of dependence. And that is what I wanted to show, my reaction to the past’s inflictions on the present.

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Open and echoing

This moment of my studies has me in a lighter place with a camera, with the will to make work, even if the direction the work is unknown and un-bid. The occasion though of a holiday brings back to the fore for me the paradoxes of image making, it was (past-tense) a means to collect, it then became a means to avoid, I am now pleasantly relieved it is now an occasion to investigate. I want to make images again. I had thought recently about evacuating to the wilds somewhere and revisiting the aesthetics that had me making image after image – for the sake of the image only. I have resisted, but the impulse to craft imagery in the frame has returned.

I am testing this re-found delight in the shutter release on a holiday, once a period for intense photography, now usually a period of reflection on the state of my photography, or the recent lack of it. I have resisted the making of images on holiday for some time now; more to do with the absence of any structured intent, not wanting to go somewhere ‘other’ and make it such inside an un-researched lens. The search I made before was to attempt to record a sense of the sublime, without comprehending what the sublime might be and it was against this background that I fell away from the making of what I have referred to as ‘pretty pictures’, knowing that my intent was capture then creation. I travelled to my holiday destination with an intent to make images, pretty or otherwise.

It had been suggested by one of my tutors that I read a couple of texts; one being ‘The Open Work’ by Umberto Eco and also perhaps some of Italo Calvino’s works, so I took along ‘Difficult loves’. These suggestions have come about from my thoughts about text and image and they formed that other staple of being away, holiday reading.

I think I have always known, or at least from a time before this period of study started, that the essence of a photograph, however created, is as a vestige of the past. What I have become aware of more acutely through this period of study is the notion of the photograph both as a portrait of the artist but also as a document that despite it’s indexical link to the representation it seeks to portray, is dependant for it’s narrative on the experience of the viewer, their social background, their life until that point of looking; the ‘Death of the Author’ perhaps or indeed ‘Who is the author?’ However I wanted to make some images about something, I wasn’t sure before I left home what it would be, but the notion of what it was soon became apparent.

Reading Eco I am wondering about a number of things, about the vernacular of an Open discourse; I made a note “for the transaction to be successful, for the ‘Open-ness’ to work in delivering the transcendence – not specifically intended, but expected/hoped for – the viewer needs to be in a state of readiness, in fact to be ‘Open’? This state might therefore pre-suppose acquaintance with the syntax of ‘Open-ness’?”

As I started to take pictures on this holiday. I thought about two things simultaneously: the pleasure of the image I knew I was in the process of making – I will find out in a weeks time back in my home study, and coincident with that pleasure there was a narrative burning in me that I couldn’t shake, and decided to embrace. So I was pleased to read “..The “Reader” who, at the very moment in which he abandons himself to the free play of reactions that the work provokes in him, goes back to the work to seek in it the origin of the suggestion and the virtuosity behind the stimulus, is not only enjoying his own personal experience but is also appreciating the value of the work itself, it’s aesthetic quality.” I found this pleasing in the sense that I feel that whilst the ‘work’ is intended to be ‘Open’ it needs to be grounded in a narrative sense of its own. I was concerned, and I may still have this wrong (if that isn’t too strong a reflection on my reading of ‘Open’), that maybe to be truly ‘Open’ that the work in creation needs to be ‘Open’, that is without a defined narrative or contextual purpose.

I sensed very early on what these new images were about, I wasn’t immediately sure how or whether I could articulate my thoughts, either visually or verbally, but behind each frame, and I’m not sure if it was conscious or sub-conscious, was a growing sense of an echoing in the frame.

Eco goes on to say: “Similarly, the free play of associations, once it is recognised as originating from the disposition of the signs, becomes an integral part of the work, one of the components that the work has fused into its own unity and, with them, a source of creative dynamism that it exudes. At this point, the viewer can savour (and describe, for that’s what every reader of informal art does) the very quality of the form, the value of a work that is open precisely because it is a work.”

This notion of ‘a work’ enthralled me to some extent, this idea of an anchorage to a subjunctive text, because without it I was feeling a bit lost. I had supposed that maybe the ‘Open-ness’ was an expression of the creator of the text and that if that creator had a narrative then the text couldn’t be ‘Open’. Or as Eco has it. “… And even if the reception is left open – because the intention itself was open, aiming at a plural communication – it is nevertheless the end of an act of communication which, like every act of communication, depends on the disposition and the organisation of a certain form. Understood in this sense, the “informal” is a rejection of classical forms with univocal directions but not a rejection of that form which is the fundamental condition of communication. The example of the informal, like that of any open work, does not proclaim the death of the form; rather if proposes a new, more flexible version of it – form as a field of possibilities.”

Some of the frames that I made took me aback, somewhat startling me with how I felt about them, others I started to look for, there became a sense of knowing of what I wanted to depict, what I wanted to narrate through these images. The more frames I took, the more the ‘work’ started to take shape, started to take over.

I have now edited some forty or so images from the memory cards of two cameras knowing what it was that impelled me to make the decision to release the shutter on each occasion; the making of these images seemed to have me in a sense of heightened awareness which I felt enthralled about, knowing, sensing and feeling that the work was revealing itself to me, or maybe that I looked and therefore saw.


I felt the ‘echoes’ in these images, though that wasn’t what I had foregrounded in my mind as I made these images but in part I recognised the reverberations, that sense of the past seeping into all of the images I set out to achieve , so I’m content with that part. I decided to check with my tutor whilst I was away about the nature of ‘Open’ work and I was relieved to have a reply almost straight away which confirmed some of my understanding of the form. I am now also very much aware of how poor the ‘blog’ is to present images. As single items they are limited, landscape oriented images are under-privileged compared to portrait oriented images, though I have scaled them all to the same long edge dimension. However the coupling of images in a diptych or triptych is a nonsense. I haven’t structured the edit yet, though I am very much aware that the narrative – as I read them – will be dependant, to some extent on, having occasional complex statements of more than one image coupled at a time – that will have to happen after printing and I may show them to my tutor at some time.

sugar bowlc2




Fontcuberta and the difficult light

Fifteen Twelve

Fifteen Twelve

Fifteen Twelve

Fifteen Twelve

“All photography is a fiction that presents itself as true”. This quotation, attributed to Joan Fontcuberta in an essay by Andrea Soto Calderon and Rainer Guldin “To document something which does not exist” is troubling. First of all I haven’t read the work that Fontcuberta has written – it is from a work called “El beso de Judas” which is only available in Spanish – I have asked the artist (through his assistant, Mar) whether there is a english translation, but unfortunately there isn’t. I shan’t be funding a translation. I instinctively know that this quotation and others seem to find an echo with the work I am investigating with light. It is difficult to allow myself to develop this theme without trying to predict where it will travel to, I find this artist’s work influencing how I approach the topic.

Lavandula angustifolia 1984, reproduced with the kind permission of the artist Joan Fontcuberta

Lavandula angustifolia 1984, reproduced with the kind permission of the artist Joan Fontcuberta

Fontcuberta tells of a time in an art museum in Houston where the curator was discussing with the artist Eugene Smith’s archive, which is resident there and how Fontcuberta had spotted some ‘work’ done on the negatives. The curator acknowledged that Smith had indeed ‘doctored’ some negatives of the ‘Spanish Village’ series, but the essential truth still exists of course. Smith’s work has been held up as an exemplar of the sort of Documentary work that seeks to ‘expose the truth’ with the Spanish Village and Minamata and so on. And whilst Smith’s work is still, rightfully held up, almost as a beacon, the notion that it might be constructively ‘untrue’ is a thought worth considering. In the same Spanish text Fontcuberta states “…photography always lies, lies instinctively, lies because its nature does not permit it to do anything else.”

Lavandula angustifolia, appears to be a brassica, the stem, the large leaves and the firm head of the vegetable, all visual clues. Of course it isn’t a vegetable at all, let alone a member of the cabbage family; it is an image of one, perhaps more than that it is a simulacra of an image; it is, maybe, a monochromatic image of an image of something, that we think we might recognise but we aren’t quite sure. When we fix that the head of the ‘plant’ to be that of a tortoise from underneath things start to fall into place. Fontcuberta has made a series of these images, at once an homage to Blossfeld with his close-up monochrome images of flora, but equally a subversion of that same work. These interpretations have at it’s core the notion of truth. This is a ‘true’ image, as true as any image that Blossfeld made; that Fontcuberta presents his image as only an image – this visual construct seems to me to be a direct reference to the notion that all photographs are constructions – something that Fontcuberta speaks about in the audio file in this post. But once the ‘game’ is up, the fiction is very clear – it’s obviousness a fundamental part of the construct; none of this image has ever truly existed. It is a lie.

Dendrita Victoriosa 1982, reproduced with the kind permission of the artist Joan Fontcuberta

Dendrita Victoriosa 1982, reproduced with the kind permission of the artist Joan Fontcuberta

It is a fictive narrative, having only vestigial connection to a reality, whether born on or beneath the soil. The fiction invites the viewer to construct their own version of a ‘truth’ given the available information: monochrome (no colour misfitting), sombre setting, very reminiscent of Blossfeld’s curios. These are reverential settings, amplified by their projection against a blank background allowing nothing to ‘upstage’ the reading. The ‘latinised’ caption with date reference implying a scientific, almost ‘Linnaeus’ schema – but not quite; just as the flora’s title isn’t quite the real thing, neither is the image – all adding up to a multiple subversion strategy to test the gaze of the viewer. It has been suggested that the ‘Victoriosa’ is a reference to the two digits, I like to think of them as ‘two fingers’, slightly more than ‘cocking a snoop’ at the Blossfeldian tradition of mimicking, and perhaps trying to upstage the scientific indexical properties of photography.

Fontcuberta invites us to scrutinise these images and I think he challenges the viewer to accept them for what they are, a means by which the artist wants to communicate, though the communication isn’t prescribed, it will be whatever it turns out to be. Where this informs my own work is both simple and difficult to explain. Simple in that I want to construct fictions with the use of an emotional response to a place which is likely to be physically close to me by documenting the instances and how they invoke fictional constructs. At Fifteen Twelve this fiction presented itself as a self evident truth, I can no longer test the veracity of it’s previous existence, it is no longer there, was never there to begin with, so cannot return to that place for which it has no memory.

Fact and Fiction

Photography shouldn’t be taught in Fine Art schools, which deal in aesthetics, but in Philosophy schools which deal in Ontology, which teaches us to think. I think photography is a way to think about reality, to think visually, but, finally, to think. Aesthetics is how we dress your body, but finally the important thing is the body, not the dressing, the aesthetic is the facade. The facade helps you sell the building but the important thing is the architecture, the fundaments, the whole structure supporting the building. Aesthetics is a way to make the communication easier, but the important thing is the content, the context….” Joan Fontcuberta from an interview for LensCulture

Ideas at sixteen twenty two

Ideas at sixteen twenty two

How hard should one try and make an image more aesthetically compelling? This is a notion I have been struggling with throughout the course; should one strive to make an image as visually compelling as possible in order to facilitate communication? Fontcuberta also posits in the same interview “…how we don’t realise that a photograph, as any other human message, is an articulated, constructed, artificial message …. we create to communicate with each other…”.

Struggle at sixteen thirty four

Struggle at sixteen thirty four

Catching an early train for a meeting one hundred and fifty or so miles away sometimes develops a stress all it’s own. Alarm clocks, parking the car, a seat on the train, making connections all add to the fuss of the event. When the notice board at the station cried that the ride had been cancelled it added another piquancy to the proceedings.  My journey, though inaugurated in confusion, relaxed to the original arrival time; the train operator ‘added’ a service half way along the route and I managed to connect to it and joined others, journeying north who perhaps thought that there hadn’t been any disruption in the service. The train that was cancelled at my home station but was available at another station, and stations, further along the route. The service was therefore both available and absent at the same time. I made the meeting on time, returned home in good order; the day went very well.

Ten thirty seven

Ten thirty seven

I’ve come to think that documentary photography, or rather the documentary photographer’s role, is perhaps on one hand, about creating narratives that need not necessarily be founded solely on the indexical strength commonly recognized by and for the medium, but rather what the image has the potential to convey or suggest. Joan Fontcuberta in an interview with Christina Zelich published in ‘Conversation with Contemporary Photographers in 2005 talks about how he recognizes the “…light that illuminates a space that has born witness to an event both personal and public…. Which can be summed up as the notion of ‘decisive space’ as opposed to Cartier-Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’”. This notion echoes very strongly with the current work I am doing (in trying to find a thread for assignment five); I am looking at scenes, seeking scenes that have ‘a light’. This ‘light’ that I am searching for seems to illuminate for me, so far, very personal reactions to a place and time. The time element seems to be important in that the illumination is transitory, evanescent and bringing with it a sense of an event in the past rather than the present – which is of course the state that the ‘light’ is in when I witness it with an image. Thinking further on Fontcuberta’s position and reflecting on the public space, I’m now wondering whether I should investigate the public nature of the experience in an illuminated space, or whether the image becomes public because I’ve made it so?

Ten thirty four

Ten thirty four

Recently I had a conversation about fiction; I was asked, I think as a response to some recent research that (the majority of) males read non-fiction whilst females are the opposite, and my response was that fiction has always been a preference with me explaining  that non-fiction is unreliable at best, biased and possibly bigoted at worst. Nearly always challenged by another ‘expert’ at some stage relating how or whether the view of fact is the correct version; whereas fiction deals with the maybe, the possible. The train passenger attempting to get on the seven twenty seven at Banbury one morning only to find that it was cancelled; it wasn’t cancelled in Birmingham, in fact it left on time. One passenger’s knowledge contradicted by another passenger’s fact.

With fiction I want to think about how I can investigate my response to witnessed scenes at once commonplace and banal but having the narrative presence to provide the spectator an entry to develop their own narrative responses.

Thirteen forty nine

Thirteen forty nine

Whilst researching Fontcuberta and thinking about my own work I am seeing a strong connection, small openings of insight, similar sized revelations which seemingly reflect this notion of light that I am seeing. My task I think therefore to continue to make these pictures and develop a sense of self narrative that makes sense to me, to continue to photograph. It may lead to a place that discusses a personal reflection or a personal reflection of a public event or events. I suspect it will end up in the self – these things tend to with me! I suppose what I am saying is that I am trying to build some structural intent to enable me to build a cogent narrative around. That the aesthetically approach I choose might become an added layer to providing an accent to the work, maybe to bring the work to a similar visual setting, or to segment into chapters or paragraphs.

The light still appears to me to mark a time, so far most of the times have been about personal thoughts – at “Ideas at sixteen twenty two” I distinctly had a thought about this idea and ideas and a short while later “Struggle at sixteen thirty four” finding it difficult to express them. It is slowly coming together but it won’t be a swift process.

Joan Fontcuberta interview

Antonino and the archive today

The world seems to need more pictures, more ways to fit them into our worlds; their omnipresence today appears to be tomorrow’s opportunity to create a competition to create more, more images and more ways to create them. Imagery creation, creating image. The ticking of the shutter release even on shutter-less cameras an increasing soundscape to all we do. Much has been said of the volume of pictures that flood our lives, Kessels’ installation of the Flickr upload in a 24 hour period is dwarfed if compared to all pictures made in the same period on the day he chose and already those numbers pass into the penumbra of a new day’s dawn of image creation. That of today.

At the turn of the previous century, on the cusp of modernism, Kodak provided the means of democratization in the medium by which the image both devalued and exalted the object of it’s gaze. Atget and Lartigue, the vernacularists attempting to catch the exhaustion that Calvino’s Antonino would come to accept, that the only course left was to photograph the photograph and not the photographed because it was already in an image album somewhere. The banal becoming first more beautiful and then, later in the century, reveling in a connoisseurship of the tawdry and mundane and as the clock ticks the numbers rise and their value, outside the speculated and manipulated, reduces. The worth of the photograph maker continues to diminish, the currency of the artist in a world now flush with bandwidth seems to be being directed to the walls of those that were not targeted by Kodak and are now by Nokia and Apple.

Cameras are now no longer a choice decision; they are part of the furniture of life. Exclamations of surprise at the cohabitation of image capture and creation with voice telephony is no longer shrill; it is now a purposeful decision to elect not to have a camera/phone or indeed a phone/camera. The interconnectedness is deemed not an optional extra but a choice au natural, why wouldn’t it be there? The camera exists as by rights on computers, on mobile phones, on walls, on children’s toys, on pylons, on doors, on spectacles, on kitchen appliances and on and on and on.

This ubiquitous availability informs how we value them, this sense of acceptance that the world is now available through an image has driven the photographer from the news desk in newspapers, from the documentary photographers place at the front line of conflict both national and domestic, the value of these images are as ephemeral as their permanence as records, Antonino’s precept has perhaps more currency today then when first proposed over half a century ago, and now seems more prescient than ever, though tomorrow will declare another record in image creation. Tick tick.

As I regard this medium’s diminishing worth in the stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap world that pervades our every existence as artist, as photographers, as life on this planet I begin to wonder at a most curious phenomena. This ever-reducing worth ascribed to the image has been matched by an ever increasing charge to the very same item. This denomination though isn’t, and cannot be matched by Gursky’s super banality monetary association but by the emotional value attributed to it by both individual and state alike. The photograph has never had so much collateral value, it potency comes despite the general acceptance of it’s lack of legitimacy, it’s mimetic potency when tasked with the presentation of so-called truth.

The creation of an image of a person or property is now more highly governed both in law and by social stigmatic response, than ever before. Individual rights associated with the capture of an image have some echoes with Papuan New Guinean tribes-people who thought that perhaps their souls were being extracted by this devilish contraption. That society feels a need to be protected suggests that the value of the captured image is perhaps even beyond valuation and that it’s very presence as a physical entity – despite it’s physical ephemerality – should be expunged from existence, that to have it available is anathema to the normal structure of a normal society. Calvino found his mid century perspective of his privileged Antonino’s perspective, a fond remembrance of a life without photographic restriction, his model voluntarily disrobing as a prelude to the act of photography, describing herself in an act of humility which guided them to love, had no need for a release form. The release in their case was love; that this love foundered on a photographer’s obsessive need for recreation of the object of his desire is a subjunctive denouement neither could have foreseen.

Indemnification against every possible eventuality is now a precursive intercourse between even complicit subject and object; signs abound about “no photography here”. I wonder if it is a condition of the ‘watched-society’ that fosters this predilection of concern of the potential potency of the image, but it is perhaps more curious that in a time where the image is valued less and less, becoming more and more fleetingly regarded; that it’s potency should have become so charged with emotive currency meaning that few dare to cross the rubicon of personal space to create images that were once standard fare.

Antonino’s search for imagery to photo-copy will, in another half century be perhaps thwarted by a lack of vernacular imagery, despite the omnipresent image capturing technology, despite the fathomless depths of digital storage, as those very images will have been deleted assuming they were ever taken. What then for the archivist to mine for a narrative of the early twenty first century, lost USB devices found and sold on an ebay flea market?

Memory, that most fallible and enabling of devices

by the riverMy earliest memory stems from when I was just a few years old, I would say three, maybe four, but probably three. The family was outside our next door neighbours house back-door (which of course was to the side of the house and not at the back; it was called the back-door to be the opposite of the front door). This back door was paved to the front gate, so-called because it was at the front of the garden, in front of the house, and so was appositely named. My father challenged me to a race home; I remember vividly he let me run-off first – I raced to the end of the path, opened the gate, two steps to our front gate and then I hurtled toward our back door. I knew I had won – he had let me win maybe – but I wasn’t thinking that of course, no-one had overtaken me, he hadn’t overtaken me. My head still in racing position and I never let up until I got to the end of the race, and when he stood there and stopped me, ahead of me, in front of me, and not lagging behind I couldn’t understand what could possibly have gone wrong. I left first, no-one, least of all him, had overtaken me. My mother was there shortly after, they both laughed. I looked back towards the gate, the gate that I had, as a two year old, fallen against and gashed my forehead requiring two stitches – I don’t remember that fall, though I still have the scar. The pavement that I had just ran down was where I had  tripped over sometime previously and knocked my two front teeth out; I don’t remember that either. But I do remember my parents laughing at my confusion and how it was that Mrs Young, our next door neighbour, had volunteered to show me what had happened, how it was that I had ran the race whilst he had simply strode across the boundary wall in what I suppose for an adult, would have been a three pace race.

I don’t remember the picture either; it was shown to me last week by my twin sister, that’s her seen in the picture slightly lagging behind me. I know where it is – by the White Bridge across the River Ouse, nearby what became Newnham swimming pool. I don’t recognise the joy in the face of that boy either. I was clearly some kind of celebration, a long way from home for a Christening, so not that I’m sure. This place was quite close to my father’s parental home, though I suspect they wouldn’t have been with us. So I’m all at sea, on what this the significance of the bow-tie, smart socks and my twin sister’s pretty dress. And she can’t remember either.

runningPhotographs do possess strength, not only the strength to invoke memories, but also to invoke responses:

All this is true, up to a point. Photographs are evidence, after all. Not that they are to be taken a face value, necessarily, nor that they mirror the real, nor even that a photograph offers any self-evident relationship between itself and what it shows. Simply that a photograph can be material for interpretation – evidence, in that sense: to be solved, like a riddle; read and decoded, like clues left behind at the scenes of a crime….. A photograph can certainly throw you off the scent. You will get nowhere, for instance, by taking a magnifying glass to it to get a closer look: you will only see patches of light and dark, an unreadable mesh of grains. The image yields nothing to that sort of scrutiny; it simply disappears.

            In order to show what it is evidence of, a photograph must always point you away from itself. Family photographs are supposed to show not so much that we were once there, as how we once were: to evoke memories which might have little or nothing to do with what is actually in the picture….” Annette Kuhn, Remembrance. The Child I Never Was. The photography reader ed’ Liz Wells pp 395

I was very pleased to have found this photograph, and to have had time to (re) live in it for a while. We don’t know who took the photograph, so to whom I am running isn’t known. I suspect it wasn’t my father.

Working on narrative

In Dominic Willsdon’s essay “Hiroshi Sugimoto Aegean Sea, Pilíon 1990” published in ‘Singular Images’ ed’ by Sophie Howarth we take at face value the title of the print; it defines so much for us, the viewer/reader. The Aegean Sea at Pilíon looks across the water towards Troy on the Anatolian coast, he mentions the nearby Dardanelles, Gallipoli, Thrace, Constantinople, Macedonia, and in three short sentences conflates three thousand years or so of history. pp 100. “This is the dead centre of the Aegean Sea. From a European perspective, or at least from any perspective oriented, critically or otherwise, to what used to be called the ‘European mind’, no body of water in the world is as heavy with history and mythology.” pp100. Willsdon goes on to reflect on the Iliad and The Odyssey, drawing also on the earliest literary references of the Adamic language – Genesis in the Old Testament – before reflecting on the influences of modernist photographers, the likes of Ansel Adams and his perspective of Yosemite. This burden of reference on an image that might otherwise be suggested as being an exercise in tonal containment, or as Ansel Adam himself might have put it; zones two to eight.

These comments on Sugimoto’s photograph (not awfully well reproduced in the book) had me wondering when I started to try and edit a set of images for assignment three – A Narrative. Of course I am not trying to draw together my images and Sugimoto’s, however I am thinking (again) about the directive use of text. If, for example, the Sugimoto image had been mis-read – like for example in the introductory essay to Hatje Cantz 400 page tome entitled “Hiroshi Sugimoto”, where Kerry Brougher talks about one of Sugimoto’s  Dioramas, taken in the American Museum of Natural History, “…of a polar bear hovers over his victim. Caught just after the kill, the photograph shows the beast poised over a freshly dispatched penguin, suspended forever…” The print doesn’t depict that of course, how could it. The good folk at the museum wouldn’t pair a slaughtered penguin from the Antarctic region with an Artic carnivore. So it could be that we might be misled, especially with such an enigmatic image such as that with which we are presented with, quite poorly in this case, by the usually fine publisher Aperture.

The narrative of Sigimoto’s image is, in Willsdon’s essay, guided wholly by the author’s flight of fancy, informed perhaps by a classical education and schooled in European history. Sugimoto himself has spent a good deal of his life in the west, living as he does between New York and Tokyo, but as far as I can find out has offered no reason for the view he chose, above looking at atlas’ finding seas with interesting names, going there, spending a few days before making a few exposures. A great concept, if you can afford it. But that’s not the point, or rather it’s not the reason why Sugimoto’s image, or Willsdon’s reading of it has come to mind.

I have over twenty images strewn over the carpet in my lounge trying to elicit a narrative that might comply with the brief on assignment three – A Narrative. The images all have two photographs per print. The one having an image of a paper butterfly with an anonymous wish written on it and the other a reflective image culled from another set of images that provided, in my view, a reflective comment on the butterfly wish. I am considering the notion that I might be able to conjure any number of narratives from any formulation of sequences. I can envisage differing complexions of stories depending on how these images might be viewed – from left to right, from top to bottom, two banks of five, five banks of two. I have already discovered that by randomly assembly the images other tales might be woven together.

A beginning, a middle and an end is what the brief mentions. It is entirely possible to create a fiction from any set of texts, the reader’s interpretation of these wishes will demand a response that creates a narrative, the gaps will be filled in, the narrative journey from one set text to another will be bridged in the sub-conscious. And so, on the one hand the brief will have been met. The start of the narrative will be defined by how the set is laid out, the central section – those five or six texts – will, with any amount of clashing scripts, provide a conduit to ‘the end’. The viewer will know it’s the end as there won’t be any more in the series, no more images to travel to, no extensions, no epilogues. Amen.

Willsdon provided the reader the directions to those sites of civilization as if Sugimoto had intended to take us there. The archipelago jutting into the Aegean was a presentation of Willsdon’s mind, his sub-conscious, informed by his life experiences and served as a self evident truth. But what if, like Brougher the image hadn’t been the one we, or he, had thought. Aperture had either slipped up and introduced another image altogether, or the sub-editor had misnamed the image ‘The Sargasso Sea, Bermuda”? I have no knowledge whether Sugimoto had ever considered the Sargasso Sea or not. It is certainly a water that has the weight of history and a uniqueness about it that could provide a draw to the artist. And the reason I ask myself this question, is whether I should care about a couple of things. Whether, for example, the fiction is based on a fiction, surely Willsdon’s is, it is his fictive fantasy conjured from his background. Or, whether I should worry about the generation of a greater fiction, by that I mean altering the text, adding a text, deleting a word, a letter to tell better the story that I feel impelled to relate.

My inclination is to continue to think and explore how these images might combine to add to the simple narrative provided with the text. I need to settle with these images, map them, work with them and try to trust my instinct that there is something there to explore.