writing in light – history, philosophy and photography
there has always been ‘photography’ – the writing of light emerging as it did on the walls of ancient tombs its ‘photograph’ fixed by the cardinal alignments, the chamber acting as a camera, the box opening its lens to focus the suns rays on the stone ‘plate’ at the rear of the chamber; this perhaps the first camera obscura that was later acknowledged by aristotle
this capturing of light and the praxis it involves; from the construction of the substantial receiving chambers connected to the sun and the passing of the generations, to the accumulated knowledge of the heavens, the movement of the sun and moon; light takes on a substantive content.
given their mutual dependence on light and their concern for enlightenment and knowledge, there is a hidden coincidence between photography and philosophy, from a light which gives rise to the possibility for clarity, reflection, speculation, and lucidity, for knowledge in general. from an image that flashes up for benjamin, the history of knowledge is a history of the vicissitudes of light. for him, there can be no philosophy without photography… for the history of photography, as for the history that is photography
the past is material made up of things left behind, the trace elements of which appear in the present in the form of images illuminated not with the slow burn of candle light but with the millisecond of the electronic flash gun, for the images in the past that are exposed in modernity are technologically framed, photographically conditioned and electronically simulated. it reveals a past constructed in terms of the dangers of the present. technologically advanced but socially immature. today there can be no history [or prehistory] outside of one that is photographically conceived and constructed. historically, these images are essential to the production of meaning.
diagram of winter solistice sunrise at new grange (g, stout & m. stout, 2008, newgrange)