The Fugitive moment

Listening to Anna Fox talking about photography, well perhaps more accurately, about herself articulated through the medium of fictive images; I was stopped short by the almost sutto voce comment she made about ‘the fugitive moment’. Liminally speaking the thresholds to be breached in ‘momentary’ parlance usually start with ‘decisive’; those well researched, rehearsed and often re-trod happenstances that can often be construed as statuary moments. The expressive tribute to a moment caught, rendering it like a mounted and cabinetted prize fish, seems somewhat at odds with the illusory purpose of appointing it a ‘moment’.

Still moments do not conveniently habituate the frame; the temporal fragmentation of life through the lens attempts to construe a narrative in a linear and ‘momentary’ fashion and a photographer’s bent is to do that with crystal like clarity. This unrelenting enterprise to impel stochastically formed sharpness from the frame to screen, much less now the print, is at odds with the very subject it is in the throes of trying to harness. Life, all life – and death, are transients in an insistent process of change. The flower, so eloquently framed and re-rendered in life affirming colours, is either opening or closing at the point the shutter echoes those time slicing moments. We see though the flower in stasis, never to fully open and flux a life unfulfilled and, like Ganymede, to be regarded for its beauty and form for eternity.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the artist Stephanie d'Hubert

Reproduced with the kind permission of the artist Stephanie d’Hubert

But life is an arc, it rises and falls, and to depict it solely in a state of stasis is surely the widest cock and bull story to found a narrative on? And yet, and yet as photographers we are measured by how accurately we can render that untruth, how artfully we can depict the artifice of ‘lifelike’. It is with this in mind that I wanted to talk about what I felt when I saw these works by Stephanie d’Hubert, a fellow student and how I felt a similar reaction to Duane Michels’ work below and other artists.

The Annunciation

There is of course plenty ‘going on’ in these images, purposeful compositions in monochrome. For me though it is about peripherality, how the eye senses something is happening, has happened or is about to happen. These grey areas of near liminal comprehension develop that sense – for me – of the ‘Fugitive’ moment that Fox mentioned in her talk. There is enough of the sharp and steady in these images to be aware of the context, there maybe more narrative devices in Michals’ image, but that doesn’t dispel the construction of a plot in d’Hubert’s work, perhaps it’s openness invites the assembling of narrative the form of which perhaps, has a stronger association with the viewer’s subconscious than the artist’s own?

Reproduced with the kind permission of the artist Stephanie d'Hubert

Reproduced with the kind permission of the artist Stephanie d’Hubert

It is though for me this idea of a moment in flight, the fugitive form from or to another place or time. The ephemerality of a vista in motion, as if searching for that spirit. I saw this in Francesca Woodman’s work and of course Michael Ackerman’s, Paniak, Rojas as well as a number of other artists, and I find myself continually drawn to this type of expression, where the subject isn’t always appointed in visually grammatic robes that have been mastered, and also having tamed the local contrast issues associated with the primary focus of the text. If it is fugitive then why should it express itself otherwise? Why should we be presented with an answer, especially when the answer might be, as Althusser suggests, an unconscious representation?

Of those artists that I have noticed making these stories up, none seem to be working in colour, it seems that this type of representation works better in shades of grey. The lack of colour tones adding to, rather than depriving the text of narrative sub or sur contextuality, though this interpretation maybe skewed by my lack of knowledge in the form that I’m studying. It isn’t though that I feel that these exigencies gain primacy because they are monotonic, but the lack of the narrative accent that colour may provide simplifies it for me. It isn’t there, therefore I don’t consider it’s effect. I do find it interesting that an image of grey tones helps me to consider the ‘in between-ness’, neither black nor white. And grey is an indeterminate, it is neither one thing or another and in literary terms it is the hue that often describes the unknown or unknowing. The fugitive is grey.

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2 thoughts on “The Fugitive moment

  1. This got me thinking about time and how awareness of it varies so much. Losing myself in a book feels like a moment but actually last for hours; yet waiting for someone to ‘phone back in five minutes’ can seem to take all day! It’s because of this that I feel okay at the moment with the notion of ‘stasis’ in photography. I keep thinking I must try to remember when I recall a dream whether it was in colour or shades of grey. Does grey fit with transient moments and flickers of action? I’ve already established that my dreams do seem to occur in random, snapshot form. Maybe everyone’s brains work differently in this respect.

    • I’ve never really remembered the colouring of my dreams, I always thought they were in black and white, now not so sure. Time does seem malleable I agree, though it tends to speed up as the days mount up!

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