Writers on Photography

Austerlitz_novel_coverposted by Colby Caldwell

“In my photographic work I was always especially entranced, said Austerlitz, by the moment when the shadows of reality so to speak, emerge out of nothing on the exposed paper, as memories do in the middle of the night, darkening again if you try to cling to them, just like the photographic print left in the developing bath too long.” 

– WG Sebald, from Austerlitz


385347“Photography is a vulgar addiction that is gradually taking hold of the whole of humanity, which is not only enamored of such distortion and perversion but completely sold on them, and will in due course, given the proliferation of photography, take the distorted and perverted world of the photograph to be the only real one.  Practioneers of photography are guilty of one of the worst crimes it is possible to commit – of turning nature into a grotesque.  The people in their photographs are nothing but pathetic dolls, disfigured beyond recognition, staring in alarm into the pitiless lens, brainless and repellent.  Photography is a base passion that has taken hold of every continent and every section of the population, a sickness that afflicts the whole of humanity and is no longer curable.  The inventor of the photographic art was the inventor of the most inhumane of all arts.  To him we owe the ultimate distortion of nature and the human beings who form part of it, the reduction of human beings into caricatures – his and theirs.  I have yet to see a photograph that shows a natural person, a true and genuine person, just as I have yet to see one that gives a true and genuine representation of nature.  Photography is the greatest disaster of the twentieth century.  Nothing has sickened me so much as looking at photographs.  

And yet, I now told myself, the longer I look at the distorted images of my parents and brother in these pictures – the only ones I ever took of them – the more I see the truth and the reality behind the distortion.  This is because I’m not concerned with the photos as such; I don’t see the people portrayed in them as shown by the distorting lens of the camera – but as I myself see them.”

– Thomas Bernhard, from Extinction

 

“The development process in the darkroom is figured not as a straightforward, irreversible transition from negative image to the developed photograph, but as a precarious process encompassing both the manifestation of the image and its subsequent disappearance.  Importantly, then, it is the latency and transience of the photographic image, rather than its permanence and stability, which serve as a model for the process of memory, as the images of neither photography or memory can be grasped or arrested, and are hence both prone to disappearance.”

–  from the Sebald scholar Carolin Duttlinger

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