Photography has always suffered the burden of an unassailable correspondence to the Real, be it in the delineative powers of the pose—a striking correspondence with the apparent stillness of things or with that which we force into a “pose”, the prosthesis of the portrait, for example—, be it in the snapshot, as a optical-mechanical-chemical—nowadays mostly optical-electronic—race in the pursuit of movement, be it in what lies between. In an era of seemingly infinite synthesis and hybridisation of the photograph, it seems that this correspondence still moulds the medium to the point of true or false. It is right that photography bears a machine-like precision which lends it to forensics: so long as we give enough exactitude to the control of experimental variables, we can extract from it the same science we obtain from radiometry or ultrasound. But the photographic Real is not a segment of the scientific, in the same way that the Unreal is neither emptiness nor void. Both make up the image and the spectre of the photographic pathos, and both turn and shift as the ‘danse macabre’ of reality displaces the first to expose the second. What we are left with is always the ghost of the other.
What we propose here is a problematisation of the photographic document in light of the Real and its excess, to sketch a series of ontological lines that complicate the idea of photography as facsimile, and speak of irreality as the constitutive power behind the back of its obligations as a Realism. The Taggean debate of photography as a social construct has generally been settled, as much as the Barthesian “this was” or the Deleuzian “moulding” have persisted: we see no contradiction between these facets and would conceive of the Social as a marking on the moulding as it bears upon reality. What we see is, first, a deep entanglement of Real and Unreal every time we take up the photograph as the document of a truth. And, second, a great stasis or homeostasis in such veneration that the photograph will have corresponded to nothing else but a reality of which it is the (perfect) index or graphic congealment.
We will refer to a modest yet wide spectrum of photographic and rephotographic pairs, series and examples, to speak of realism and of second and third-degree realisms, of irreality, of stasis and anergy, of melancholy, of ghosts, of a mediumistic Real, and of a photographic ‘agencement’. But we will also point to the recouping of the photographic document from both relativism and directness, through reinvestment with a longer, deeper realism that is inscribed in class struggle, in its reverberations and manifestations. We will also refer in passing to Bergson, to the Deleuzian “virtual”, to the Benjaminian “optical unconscious”, to Barthes, to Marx and to the Debordian “spectacle”
It is holding up the banalest of corpora delicti that we will start to ‘deterritorialise’ the photographic
Miguel Faleiro, studied photography at Ar.Co Visual Arts and Communication Centre, and Aula do Risco, in Lisbon, before completing the MA Photography at the University of The Arts London with Distinction. He worked in the areas of digital and cultural heritage preservation for over a decade. Miguel has developed projects around photography and the moving image, and has exhibited in venues such as the British Film Institute Southbank, the Back Hill Gallery and Shoreditch Town Hall amongst others. One of his ongoing endeavours is the intermittent but continued photo-textual survey of suburbanisation across Greater Lisbon, which he publishes and cyclically edits, as a work-in-perpetuity, in the bespoke portal lisboa-suburbana.org. His research and aesthetic interests revolve around areas such as: the relationship between photography and philosophy, the photographic space-time, the interval between photography and the moving-image, the problematics of the museum as a mausoleum and as a temporal-spatial container, and the questions of suburbanity and suburbanisation.