leo photophile

Through a glass darkly


 July 2006

Through a glass darkly is my metaphoric allusion to looking through the lens of a camera, awaiting the psychological moment (in the dark). It is also the title of an Ingmar Bergman film I saw a long time ago, and because of one scene in that film, I always remember it: a view of a northern lake in the midnight sun hypnotises the camera. I hold that scene within like a communication with an unknown self. Perhaps had I something of the imaginative grasp of Robert Musil, there’d be no need to take photographs. Here is part of a sentence from his strory The Perfecting of Love: “now and then it happens that one sees something in the distance, an unfamiliar thing and walks towards it, and at a certain point it enters into the circle of one’s own life; but the place where one was before is now strangely empty.”

 Amersham woodsTo the woods

  It is, of course, a phrase, from 1 Corinthians 13, followed there by another phrase: “face to face” as a  now-and-then, a before-and-after. So, as usual, quite a process is constellated in the space between. This web-space, to an extent represents, a space between. Images are one of the things that tag to such happenings, words also, but ineffably, in one way or another, meaning eludes one.

And now a picture to hold that space.

Who am I? Who am I?

I think my search for meaning in empty spaces may partly derive from growing up in a culture of mystification. Walker Percy has an interesting slant on this. It is pivotal to his novel The Moviegoer? I’ll have more to say about Binx Bolling sometime. By the way, I am Lyon, hence Leo. I am called that after my father who died when I was five. The woman in my imagination is Lyones after a character in Arthurian legend. Anyway what interests me is the meaning that momentarily emerges from the subliminal choices that register the activity of imagination – in an apparition, or a form of words, perhaps in the threatening surprises of a psychoanalysis – when I sense myself prompted towards a reality other than what I was thinking was real, the way of being I was accustomed to. It seems like a moment of acceptance of aloneness, not such that instills despair, but rather suggests a precarious balance above an abyss of unknowing, an insupportable freedom.  In the next breath perhaps, he says, Musil, that is, ” a moment always comes that is like an abyss, and, left behind at its brink, there stands a sick person whom one does not know and who is gradually fading from sight.” 

The next picture is from the spring of 1986 – a rusty incinerator aboard the crane barge Thor in the Fortes Field 140 miles offshore in the North Sea.

 case hardened Case-hardened

21 August 2006 

And now I’m picking up the thread again. And time has passed. And a phrase has come to mind: an image darkly forming is the phrase. It is the title of a book, and a Jungian might well take it as a metaphor for individuation. Jung thought of the progress of the soul as a night sea journey; he talked of Jonah and the whale. It is not a metaphor, however, when used another way, as a rather nice way of referring to the photograph: an image forming in the dark, first in the split-second piercing of the dark inside the camera, then developing in the dark of a tank and at last in the obscure light of the darkroom, and before all that, conceived in the dark processes of the mind’s eye. I want to use it in another sense to mark a trend in my interest in picture taking. I mean an image formed of the dark.  Brassai’s Paris by night, has the glossy magic of the sensuous and romantic dark.  

 The prostitute Prostitute at angle of Rue de la Reynie and Rue Quincampoix From “Paris by Night” 1933

In contrast, there is an image by a young Israeli photographer that cast a spell on me very different from that of the brilliance of the dark of Gyula Halasz Brassai. Sensuous, yes, but there is nothing sensual or romantic in Calanit Schachner’s picture. It takes me back to being a boy sitting in the darkened local cinema and being confronted by the unthinkable, moving black and white pictures of the relief of Belsen on the Gaumont British News. That this had been going on at the same time as my everyday life as a schoolboy! What I couldn’t get out of my head was the footage of the interior of the crematorium. And people can deny that these terrible things ever happened!

 space-5-calanit-schachner.jpg Space 5  (from Attic)

It is the image darkly forming that I am drawn to if somehow to try and understand my fascination with it.  And so – into the dark.



  1. Hi there stumbled onto your website very intresting ,

    My name is Chris I stay on Ballater street with my family just wanted to let u know of a project i am doing in the Gorbals voiceofthegorbals.org looking to capture old stories and memories of Gorbals past so that future generations can enjoy and to stop them being lost forever as I feel this area is very rich in community spirit and real characters also we are going to get musician involved all details on website ,

    this is really a project for the community I managed to get some funding from Scotland Unltd for promotion etc but give all the time I have to this for free as I project manage it. I am a busy freelance worker and also youth worker so cant spend as much as I would like, looking to get other people involved if intrested


    chris currie

    voiceofthegorbals.org resonanceglasgow.org

    Comment by chris | March 1, 2010 | Reply

  2. Hi would love to contact you regarding one of the images… Could you make contact with me to discuss privately please. Many thanks

    Comment by Gex Zequeida | October 29, 2017 | Reply

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