leo photophile

Through a glass darkly

Into the dark

Oh dark dark dark, wrote Eliot, they all go into the dark? 

Charing Cross Underground Charing Cross Underground, October 2006

It all begins with failing eyesight and the impact of metaphors of fading light – Out out brief candle, life’s but a walking shadow

 walking shadow In Great Suffolk Street SE1, October 2006

And I am old, Father William.

Or hasn’t it always been a kind of love of the dark with me? – low lights, sitting in the dark by the light of one small candle, the darkened theatre, never drawing the curtains to keep out the night, and, in recent years, night sailing when we passed through a dark deserted world of unsleeping sea that I would otherwise never know, yet dream of. 

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger, I believe, defined “authentic” human being as a permanent state of “being-towards death”.

St Martins in the Fields St Martin in the Fields, October 2006

I took this next picture during a south easterly gale in the Cornish village of St Mawes on 8 October 2006. It was at springs and that month the tides were predicted to be exceptionally high; at full flood the sea was breaking over the street and overflowing the harbour. The forceful moon was hidden. The wind had been freshening all day and by nightfall had reached its full force, gusting to force 8 straight at the village.  In the dark and rain-swept harbour it was hard to see to set my old Nikon F. At first I went for sharpness in the distance and then, in the almost imperceptible foreground. I took maybe ten shots and this is the one that satisfied me. 

  Ship and Castle Ship and Castle Hotel, St Mawes, October 2006

Lucem demonstrat umbra – the darkness shows forth the light.

Rilke ends his Elegies thus: 

But if the endless dead woke a symbol in us,/ see they would point perhaps to the catkins/ hanging from bare hazels/ or they would intend the rain, falling on dark soil in spring-time.  Rainer Maria Rilke: Tenth Elegy, Duino Elegies          

But, as far as I know, this is not about death. Bion, the psychoanalyst, has much to say about being without memory and desire, but in a very specialised context, namely in his receptivity to the unconscious psychic events in the analytical couple. Here is the point at issue:

This is the dark spot that must be illuminated by blindness. Memory and desire are illuminations that destroy the value of the analyst’s capacity for observation as a leakage of light into a camera might destroy the value of the film being exposed. W.R.Bion: Attention and Interpretation.

It is that phrase: illuminated by blindness (where blindness is used paradoxically as both that which conceals and that which reveals) that strikes a chord for me as a photographer. Calanit Schachner has a series called Seeing Blind. There are two images of the West Pier, Brighton in there, which have particular appeal for me.

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. T.S.Eliot: East Coker 


October 21, 2006 - Posted by | black and white photography, Rilke, St Mawes

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