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47 Latent Shadows

by Erin Honeycutt


1. If something is made to be photographed, which the whole world is, and is possible to be photographed, then what is not photographable? If it is possible to photograph, then it is already latent within the photographic process. Perhaps the whole world is latent. Everything exists, waiting to be awoken.

2. Everything that is going to exist in the future is latent, waiting in the shadows. The photograph remembers the latent future. The future is latent, always waiting, crouching, ever-arriving, like the sun creating a shadow each and every day.

3. Between the late 15th and early 19th century, optical instruments were an essential part of painting. In the late 19th century, those techniques were replaced by photography.

4. The sun, moon, and mercury are the lost parts of you hiding in other people, a latent shadow.

5. See the image in your mind before it becomes a photograph: Trolley carts brimming full of strawberries oracular enough for an echo chamber.

6. See the image in your mind before it becomes a photograph: There is an owl looking down at us. There are ID and passport photos, copies and scans. Motors are roaring by; the puttering stutter of tons of motors. A mother and her daughter watch a window screen through glass. People stand on corners watching up and down the street. The endless feeling of infinity when looking up and down an avenue: does the deep feeling die when we die or does it just clasp onto someone else like a virus?

7. See the image in your mind before it becomes a photograph: A couple walks hand in hand somehow orthodox in their togetherness as an image. A simplicity that gathers together like a climate, like these pigeons gathered together at this pole. Kendall and Kylie Jenner stand on the signpost like some holy sister divinity.

8. Bricks crumbled under a doorway. Green globe of a pharmacy sign. What is the technological sublime that reaches out to us from deep inner consciousness something that used to be only comprehensible in nature, some awe inspiring force that was terrible and great and totally beyond us but now we can’t even fathom, this force that takes us towards some unknown place but now has been transformed into technology? A hypertext -the river has been replaced by the waterfall.

9. Hölderlin holds a Greek statue in his hand, but it is also the hand of Fatima, bestower of good luck and protection. The story is about the failure of virtual reality. Hölderlin says: God created the world, like the sea created the earth, by withdrawing…

10. The young Arabic teacher gives his students lessons about the alphabet and then they play video games together, his character swimming deep under the ocean.

11. He writes to die before he dies. He photographs to die before he dies. He writes with the spirit with which he writes. He photographs with the spirit with which he photographs. He writes the limits of his writing which are the limits of his world. He photographs the limits of his photography which are the limits of his world. He writes without knowing. He photographs without knowing. He writes his own history, suspending himself. He photographs his own history, suspending himself.

12. She lies on her belly taking photographs by candlelight. She feels the flute spreading out her flesh with its uneven sentences like stones spreading out farther and farther apart as she walks over them, where they sit deep in the ocean or across a shallow stream. They spread farther and farther apart and her flesh begins to lift itself between the spaces like a gravity wave in between the moments.

13. He arrived like something too bright to look at directly, so it was only possible to stare directly at something else and glance dimly when he spoke. We existed at a hushed instance behind closed doors at the end of eternity, but not right now.

14. Where do all these waves go? Who is calling from the lake? The lake, the mirror, the wavy river streets, bone crystals, moon secretary at her desk. The white wave crashing on the little island rock no matter how large or small.

15. I would step into some fire to meet the gaze again and burn my eyelashes and eyebrows and even then go grocery shopping, smelling fringed and singed and I would not care because I would feel so privileged. But that gaze belongs in the becoming, only when something is rising up to meet it. When I meet the other chemicals in the darkness, we hold hands and wave.

16. I didn’t know I would cross a border to meet one. I didn’t know I would cross an ocean to make a world picture. Making a streamline to your fiery face that my hands have doused in the arrangement of flesh, the plans and dates are like gestures of an unkempt bed.

17. They both sense it because of the smell and because of the smell they sense the rainbow of colours that they have begun glowing inside. The heat erupts and without a boiling pretence, the flames begin from some unknown centre source like they have always been there invisibly. Two magnetic poles forced at an unlikely horizon line. There is nothing to do but hold the steady gaze between selves as long as gazing can gaze, back to before gazing, before the gaze.

18. When you take a photograph, the image is invisible up to the point where you develop it. The material is a rabbit hole, a performing bunny in moving alchemy.

19. The black and white analog photographs are not as they appear on the surface. As one scans the surface of the images, the conflicting meeting place between the proof of the image and the imagination of the observer is constantly revealed. Both slight and blatant manipulations made by the artists disrupt the reception of how one usually absorbs a photograph, demanding a sharpening of the gaze.

20. One can work in the layer with the negative or on the paper. Every image is born in the darkroom out of chemicals and light. You can stop the light when the negative is on a layer. Layer by layer.

21. Manipulating the photographs in the darkroom process really disrupts the observer’s ability to ‘scan’ the image. It’s like you are dismantling the whole linear process of one thing leading to another and creating your own world within the photographs - breaking the spell of the photograph.

22. Two panels in a dark room. Two men speak by the front door. They are speaking of tourism and photography. I hear a motor outside. More small talk. I am making a sketch of St. George and the Dragon on the upper panels of the painting made between 1502 and 1508 in the church interior. The pews are squeaking.

23. I walked to the station and took the train to the airport. It was crowded and on the way I read about the life of the 17th century Jesuit priest and scientist, Athanaius Kircher. I had many synchronicities.

24. I fell asleep on the plane and caught myself snoring. A woman who spoke Farsi to her companion asked if she could take a picture of the book I was reading.

25. I posted 25 images on instagram of classical sunset paintings from the 18th century everyday at sunset hour. Something caught me in the seascape as I walked to the pavilion at sunset, posting the image as I walked. I had to stop.

26. Echoes as from a cave (hair attached to a leather boat). A nail being hammered from far away - the flood sirens call out in the tourist town as though a thousand years ago they used to say to the tourist town, drown in me (hair, how, howl). A little rain stick of land in the cave where an island sits in the midst showing periwinkle, terrified of all the chapters opened and closed there as though there’s nothing else to do but dive in water.

27. They sounded the alarm in the city, a bellow, part ocean water and flute, alerting a way to prepare ourselves; I watched the sound from the bed, a dark square of night.

28. They are calling it a handshake, a baton passing, crossing the sky at night on a Sunday everywhere in the world. I lay and listened to an alarm for a flood, an alarm to make before the film begins on the other side of town. The lute is coming from the sink, a red blanket.

29. I dreamed my mother was in a wheelchair clutching her own hands. She had a shawl over her head. I was kissing her cheeks through the shawl. She was talking about me in the past tense as though I had died and she could not see/feel me. My actual kissing her was relayed to her as a memory.

30. As I unpacked the box of books I hadn't opened in a year, I came across disposable photos in an envelope from the pharmacy: one of those one-hour photo cameras. They were from a road trip I had taken with my father twelve years before. In the middle of those years that had passed, he had passed away. Looking through the photographs, I couldn't remember who had taken which photographs - all I remember is us taking turns back and forth with the disposable camera and the film camera.

31. The photographs were all taken in New Mexico and mostly consisted of cactus trees, lurid close-ups of cactus flesh, odd angle shots taken that made the cactus trees seem to stretch into the sky endlessly, and detailed shots of prickly pear blooms. Other shots were simply of the winding road ahead, shacks off to the side, a crescent moon set in the curve of a distant mountain range.

32. I immediately had the urge to write about the photos. I laid them out on the floor and sat crouched by each one and described it in detail, boring, minute detail, and allowed all the memories attached to the photographs to also wind themselves into the description of how the cactus tree looked like it was doing backflips into the sky.

33. Memories were inevitably of my father as well, as though seeing the photographs stamped with that date in time from the most recent and significant amount of time we had spent together, had brought all of the narratives I held onto about his life in the foreground as well.

34. They all lived in the cactus flesh now. A cactus frond would wave from the corner of a photograph, out of action, making me focus on the thing I couldn’t see, as though asking me to spend more time waiting for something to appear.

35. The heavy look of the Saguaro, the way it seemed as though the rain water inside was going to make it topple over at any minute, became part of the way I remembered my father and continue to remember stories about him, stories he told, and how grief is like a collection of rainwater, seasonal, nourishing, heavy.

36. The plant species became his ghost in a way. And when I wrote about other elements in the photographs, like the highways, the blooms, the rock faces, they became like the way anyone has ever written about these things. These highways spoke of all the highways; this highway was the one spoken of when anyone spoke of highways.

37. It felt like a ghost appeared everytime I wrote about the image, appearing somewhere in that ekphrastic space, like a mystical realm (or maybe virtual), where translating the visual (whether it is in front of you or in your head), into the verbal happens.

38. But the ghostly realm was not mine alone, it was more like an echo chamber for anyone ever engaging in translating between these two dimensions. Maybe that’s all there is to a ghost - something we can’t describe yet that exists between verbal time and visual space.

39. Ekphrasis could also be called ‘magical ekphrasis’ as it considers the rhetorical strategy of ekphrastic representation as beyond mere image making. Ekphrasis considers the verbal description as containing the essence of what is being described, a portion of its reality. According to Murray Krieger, there are two kinds of ekphrases, one which strives towards representing reality through language while the other functions as a verbal emblem whose function is to represent what is unrepresentable (Krieger, Ekphrasis, 67).

40. Maybe there was more to the movement between image and text that warranted an investigation into how the interplay worked to conjure or capture something fleeting and invisible, such as a ghost, or something invisible, like a feeling. I remembered coming across the notion of ekphrasis as having a ‘ghostly’ quality from reading certain art critics who described the act of describing a painting as talking to its ghost. This was the first clue.

41. Images are not just a particular kind of sign, but something like an actor on the historical stage, a presence or character endowed with legendary status, a history that parallels and participates in the stories we tell ourselves about our own evolution from creatures “made in the image” of a creator, to creatures who make themselves and their world in their own image (W.J.T. Mitchell, Iconology, 9.)

42. Imagine the latent image: Achilles’s shield in Homer’s The Iliad, in which the shield is so detailed in its description to match is origins as a shield made by a god. In this way, the written word appears to give the visual an opportunity at arriving in the real world, can actually transcend the visual by describing it in a way that is impossible for an artist to actually make.

43. Can’t we all make videos on our cellphones now? Can I just make one my Samsung at home? I am not an artist anyway. I want to document. I want to read. I want to take a photograph and write about it, make a sculpture of her body. I want to transcribe her thinking about it: it’s called light.

44. In the darkroom, there is an enlarger that functions like a reverse camera. The paper is like the negative in a camera with the negative itself like the thing you take a picture of. The higher up and further away the negative is from the paper, the larger the image. It creates a photogram: a direct copy.

45. Or, you can create the world in an entirely different manner: by putting a drawing or painting on glass together with the negative, which also enlarges the painting on the surface of the image, so you see these lines that were painted on glass or plastic were enlarged along with the image.

46. Can one draw a distinction between the times in which painters did not use optical instruments and the times they employed optical technologies such as mirrors, lenses, or both, to be able to produce exact images of reality?

47. The photograph makes us decide if the image in front of us is from our imagination or still swimming in the translation of being born into the world.