Mortality of the Photograph
There is this line in the film “The Kingdom of Heaven” where the character of Balian asks Imad ad-Dim what Jerusalem means to him. Their response, and I paraphrase, is “It means everything. It means nothing.” For me, this is photography.
This two-dimensional moment of captured light, presented on a sensitive surface, put up on a wall, held up in front of you, in your hands in a book or a family album. Within this frame is a moment that depicts is everything, and at the same time, nothing.
Whatever is within this frame, transports the viewer to within, as they begin to ask themselves what this photograph means to them. This everything or nothing.
The Woods / ©Tim Stubbs Hughes (2022)
It begins to resonate, pulsating with its own meaning and truth. It is a dead artifact, and the moment it is representing has past, but at the time of viewing it is alive and being brought into the present. It has the power to transport and transform us. This frozen moment. While the viewer is now witnessing and contemplating its meaning, they are at the same time considering their own existence. The viewer is the living, the photograph and the moment that is traced with light, is no more. It is a singular moment that can never be repeated or captured again. It is a past that is being brought into the present by the viewer, and the viewer, at the same time, is being drawn into the past. This is the nothing.
The Room / ©Tim Stubbs Hughes (2021)
Self Portrait / ©Tim Stubbs Hughes (2021)
There is no certainty in what the viewer is feeling. There are hints with the frame, these indexical clues that allow the viewer to connect with their own memories and stories, as they contemplate what is before them. The stillness of the frame is allowing the viewer to breathe and scratch at the edges of their conscious thoughts and subconscious feelings. They are on a journey, moving both backwards with the photograph and forward with their own understanding. It is this circular motion between the photograph and viewer that establishes a connection, a transportation, a resonance. The photograph has the power to cause change, as the viewer accesses its poetic narrative, opening themselves up to a process of storytelling, of imagination, of emotions. They are having a discussion with what they are witnessing. A disturbance within. This is the everything.
The photograph is a moment to contemplate, meditate and find a place within yourself, and through this process, think about your own mortality. What is in front of you has a past, and possibly is no-more, and it something that will never happen again. That moment is lost but has been captured here for others to witness. Now though it will live on inside the viewer, within their consciousness and it will shape their future self. It breathes now with you.
This is everything. This is nothing.