Ian Talbot: Retrospective – Sciagraph 04 :: Sciagraphs

Chapter XVI of the ongoing series Ian Talbot : Retrospective by British fine art photographer Ian Talbot.

Sciagraph 04 :: Sciagraphs

© Ian Talbot

“Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees.” Paul Valery

    Of course, the alternative to the view quoted above is to make an image of something so obscure and trivial that it remains virtually nameless. For what it is worth it is, as the others in this series, an image of two pieces of mesh overlapped to form a pattern. A pattern signifying nothing in particular, at that.

    Yet a photograph is still inextricably linked to the thing photographed such that it can never truly break free. This image is not an abstract for there are no abstracts in photography. Even so I have attempted to make it as close to an image of nothing as I could. At least in this case it doesn’t really matter what it is an image of.

    While creating the small series this image is a part of I had in mind this quote by Jasper Johns, “… It had all the qualities that interest me – literallness, repetitiveness, an obsessive quality, order with dumbness and the possibility of complete lack of meaning.” I share many of these interests – more and more of late – and yet I’ve found that the less meaning I attach to an image, the less meaning I wish to express, the more viewers will attach their own meaning. I guess it’s not only nature that abhors a vacuum. It’s an area I mean to explore further.

    I have called these images “Sciagraphs” (shadow drawings) after the term used by W.H. Fox Talbot to describe his first attempts at fixing the image created by the action of sunlight on the silver nitrate soaked paper upon which he would lay various objects, leaves, fabrics and lace etc. It seemed appropriate here. Of course, interestingly, such was the wonder at the possibility of fixing these early images that for Fox Talbot it must have mattered little what the actual subject used was too. As for my images, and well before McCluhan coined the phrase, “The medium truly is the message”.

    Ian Talbot

    Text & image © Ian Talbot

Next : Chapter XVII – Shell :: Objectivity

4 Responses to “Ian Talbot: Retrospective – Sciagraph 04 :: Sciagraphs”

  1. All the qualities that interest me, how well put. Exactly.

  2. “There are no abstracts in photography.” What a fascinating statement. Don’t know if I agree with it, but very interesting. So you think there are abstracts in other genres?

    Certainly photography is inextricably bound to a sense of direct representationality, but in a way I wonder if that isn’t something we have saddled it with and not something inherent in its DNA. I mean, ultimately, it is much *less* concrete than other forms of art. A Jackson Pollack might be seen as the perfect example of an abstract work of art, but it is much more concrete and tangible than any photographic image which only exists as a series of reproductions as people make prints from the “negative”–either filmic or digital–which is in itself never the work of art that is public.

    I don’t know if this is making any sense, but it’s certainly gotten me thinking. Thanks for that.

  3. No, Riley, there are no abstracts in photography. You may not recognise the subject but one there must be! But feel free to disagree… just do tell me how you would go about photographing nothing? “Nothing” meaning here “no referrent”…

  4. I see exactly what you are saying, and maybe it would be better to say that I’m not sure in the strictest of senses there are true abstracts in any art form. Even a spatter painting like a Pollack is a representation of the physical forces on paint as they are flung through the air and how it attaches to the canvas. This might seem like a silly point to make, but I’m stuck defending an untenable position as you point out.

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