Lomax, Yve. ‘Sometime(s)’ Writing the Image (London: I.B.Tauris, 2000) 77-87


Is there any one thing that makes photography whole? Does photography have an essence? For me it isn’t a matter of setting out to find the very interior of photography and despairing when I never reach that centre; it is not a matter of authenticating, in some way or another, the essentially photographic. For me it is a matter of exteriority in the sense of asking: with what does photography connect? What sort of relations are made? The one thing I would contend is that nothing is fixed, no matter what buildings or ‘centres’ we may erect or occupy, as regards photography. I would question not only the idea that photography is merely a vehicle but also the idea that photography possesses a territory which we must depend and war over. To me that is an exclusive practice. Photography is mixed up with all sorts of things: law and order, the family, the medical professions, the artmarket. Photography is involved in a diversity of practices, stories and theories. There is painting in photography. There are words in photography. There is sexuality in photography. There is money in photography. There are a host of different “photographies”. When we start with photography, we are already in the middle of quite a few things. Indeed we may argue that there is no such thing (in itself) as Photography only photographies.


Whether or not we are a physicist, philosopher, politician or curator of photographic exhibitions, there may well be a time when we consider a thing or body – which may be a photograph or ‘living being’ – as an assemblage of interactions or relations.

When I take a walk in a forest I am not merely an natural observer: I enter into composition with the forest. Ther forest with all its variety of relations, affects me as I affect the forest. Where does the forest end and I begin?

I may say that an individuality is formed between me and the forest, yet this individuality, this forest-human, isn’t a case of the human projecting itself, its humanity, onto the forest and making the non-human the same as the human.

To take a walk in the forest is perhaps to open ourselves to the idea that the different individualities we compose, the different relations which compose ourselves, may partake of the non-human.

Contrary to a once-popular belief, the photograph is not the epitome of neutral observation. The observer may be quietly taking photographs in the forest and thinking her or him self quite neutral, yet as quantum physics tells u, the observer always participates within and affects the observed. To photograph is to affect.


The photograph is 5 o’clock in the afternoon: I may stress that no matter how neatly framed and hung upon the white walls of a gallery, no matter how isolated it may appear, an image is always to be found in the midst or interactions and relations.


For what seems like an eternity I have heard it said that today we are completely surrounded by images from which there is no escape.

Now, we may well join in with the chorus of voices which chant the line that an original reality can no longer be found outside of and prior to images representations and signs. […] Devoid of any fixed reference to an origin, the image appears to refer only to other images. Yes, we may agree that this condition constitutes a crisis: images have ceased to represent (if indeed they ever did) and no longer can we say for certain what reality is.

Until we are blue in the face we can bemoan a ‘crisis of representation’. Or, we can ask the following questions. Of what is an image capable? What can it do? With what does it interact? What relations are involved? What possibilities does this image open up or close down? Here we would not define photographic images in terms of (so-called) documentaries or fabrications, fact or fiction, realist or abstract, but rather by what they can do, the affects of which they are capable.

To ask of what an image is capable is to partake of the idea that images are immersed in a changing state of affairs – not images of the world, rather images in the world.


[The] image is not the passive receptacle of truth because it is something else – it is an object in the world that works, functions, makes connections, ‘affects’. It is a phenomenon of and within the material world; a site of actions and relations. The image simple exists, much as any other object with no special privileges. Once this is realised the image no longer poses a paralysing epistemological dilemma, but rather presents a possibilities of practices as diverse and potent as all the work images can do in the world.


The photographic image is a site of interactions and relations; this we may agree, yet let us not assume that these relations will be seen within the image. Listen, listen, there is always more than meets the eye. The relations with which an image is involved exceed the image; a photograph can never show it all. The visual image opens onto all sorts of relations yet these may not be given necessarily to sight; to see is not necessarily to know. That these relations often elude the eye may prompt us to say that they are imaginary or abstract. However are we to assume that the imaginary or the abstract doesn’t affect, that no effects or meanings are produced? The most seemingly abstract can teem with meaning.

Any single image has the potential to involve us in quite a few things, quite a few stories and times.

Sometime simultaneously concerns that which has happened and that which will happen. A photographic image, we might say then, hold the potential to involve both past times and future times.


We may say that with any single image there is always more than one time, yet are we to make a return and attempt to string together upon a single time all these different times?

The electronic and informational network spread over the earth gives rise to a global capacity for memorizing which must be estimated on the cosmic scale, incommensurable with that of traditional cultures. The paradox implied by this memory resides in the fact that in the last analysis it is nobody’s memory.


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