In his essay introducing Masao Yamamoto's Small Things in Silence monograph, Jacobo Sireula says that his photos express “That original, natural state of being that transports our deepest imagination to the lost world from which we were torn centuries ago, whose reality still awakens in us a strange and vague unconscious desire to go back to the origin - the return to ourselves.” (Siruela in Yamamoto, 2021). This 'transportation to a lost world' reminds me of Jon Cazenave's excellent Galerna project. Whilst wildly differing in aesthetic approach to Yamamoto's work, and approaching his work in direct in relation to a specific place (the Basque country) and ancestral connection, Cazenave's long-form work accumulates to elemental symbols in seeking out a lost world, origins and source.
A statement on Cazenave's site states: '...nature, history and legend come together with unusual force and create a land of myths and magic that I explore through photography. A land where nature is praised in old rites learned from our ancestors. These intangible concepts...create a visual imaginary which serves me to understand the society and the land I live in... Trees, waves, animals and black skies build a symbolic world that I turn into a channel to reach the soul of the Basques, an old soul, the soul of the one who pursues its lost paradise.' Galerna makes me think about my own search for identity and belonging through my landscape. Cazenave's dark, broody, rugged aesthetics resonate with me in eliciting the brutally raw and primordially rugged elements of the Cornish coastline.
We are dealing with the intangible and places, identities and emotions are simply indescribable and unmeasurable. Brad Fruerhelm makes this the central point of his review of Galerna for American Suburb X, stating the importance of distinguishing between 'description' and 'approximation' and that Cazenave recognises in photographic authorship we can only suggestively talk 'around things' rather than claiming to describe them: "its best course of action is to speak about these topics in metaphor as if an attempt at truth will not be tolerated by observers from a secondhand accounting...he has extended the possibility of approximation by decisively thinking through atmosphere and effect allowing the images to 'suggest' and not 'tell' or 'describe'. The images resonate with very little outside knowledge of the place and yet, you cannot read the images as 'what is', but rather 'what could be'." (Fruerhelm, 2021). Representational truths cannot be communicated as if a direct experience, rather we need to speak by way of loose associative proximity, not as an authority. I am most certainly not qualified to speak about and for the peoples and cultures of Cornwall, I can only talk suggestively 'around' my own atmospheric interpretive gestures.
Fruerhelm's assertions add another layer to the mediation of nature; that there is no pure unmediated nature in which to return to is something Nathan Jurgenson alludes to in his future classic The Social Photo (2019). Musing on dualities between the 'real' world and the online world, Jurgenson essentially states there is no distinguishment between the two, that our experiences are, and have always been, mediated through the insistence of documentation: “The reality of an experience and its documentation are not in conflict, and neither precedes the other. Writers like William Cronon long ago showed that the idea, or ideal, of an “untouched” natural nature, is only a myth. Our reality has always been already mediated, augmented, documented, and there’s no access to some state of unmediated purity. The mediation is inseparable from the thing itself.” (Jurgensen, 2019:69).
Reason is almost subordinate to perception, aesthetic obscurantism is important in many respects and some things are best left to the imagination. Outside the realms of 'concerned' and responsible journalistic photography, transparency and ideological clarity in some respects can diminish effectiveness. In respect of wabi-sabi, candour would diminish its elusive and mysterious qualities.
So, there we are, it's impossible to experience something without already being informed of it, we can't inform of something without experiencing it and we can only talk in loose analogous approximations 'around' things as opposed to 'of' them.
Cazenave, Jon (2020). Galerna. EXB/Dalpine 1st Edition. Available at: https://www.dalpine.com/products/galerna-jon-cazenave
Freurhelm, Brad (2021). Jon Cazenave Galerna. America Suburb X, 08.04.21 [online]. Available at: https://americansuburbx.com/2021/04/jon-cazenave-galerna.html [accessed 29.05.21]
Jurgenson, Nathan (2019) The Social Photo: On Photography and other Social Media. Verso
Yamamoto, Masao. (2020) Introduction by Jacobo Seruila. Small Things in Silence. RM Verlag SL; 1st edition.