Alan Sukula reminds us that ‘A photograph is an utterance…a message. However, the definition also implies that the photograph is an ‘incomplete’ utterance, a message that depends on some external matrix of conditions and presuppositions for its readability. That is, the meaning of any photographic message is necessarily context-determined’ (Sekula, 1982:85). The busy, abstract, square images in Daniel Gustav Cramer’s Trilogy (2003-2007) look like crops – The eye is forced to engage but there is no room for it to wander, the images force the audience to consider what is outside of the frame in search of the narrative. Indeed, Cramer stated himself: “The camera seems the perfect medium to relate visually to nature. It brings with it a technical neutrality, recording what is there, while actually being a tool of exclusion.” (Cramer in Parisi, 2010:58), in doing to, Cramer essentially declares the work about photography at least on an equal setting with the theme of nature.
Triolgy evades context, the images are of nature rather than about nature: and by doing so the images inadvertently also become about photography as a medium: “In a strange way, this detached gaze opens a back door into the nonhuman world, turning us into distant relatives. It is, even more, the case as works are not about landscape or nature, but images of it. A picture of nature relates to an origin, something from a different time. … Using photography to document nature as an abstractum is working so well because the medium connects us with what we can see with our own eyes and, at the same time, it excludes a part of reality, the one that remains outside the picture. Therefore, nature presents itself as real and abstract.” (Cramer in Parisi, 2010:56).
Cramer's images spatially exclude culture and by alluding to a non-human world, a pre-human world. In the spatial dimension of Triolgy, past and present co-exist in a single present perception akin to the temporal dimension Bergson calls Durée (Duration). According to Bergson, similar to 'Duration', spatial dimensions cannot be measured or itemized, they are not geometrical. They are both rooted in subjective experience (in present time), and as such, they carry different meanings to different people: 'Our relation to space develops according to a ‘natural feeling’. So, like duration, space cannot be itemized or measured... he (Bergson) calls space an extension emanated from the subject' (Van Alphen, 2014).
The term landscape is an ambiguous paradoxical human construct where cultural representation and the external world co-exist: 'The term landscape indicates a humanized relationship to nature, whether this relationship is one of dominion, of self-affirmation through the conquest of nature, or, on the contrary, a desire to transcend and efface the self in the face of nature, as what we since Kant call “the sublime”. Both attitudes spring from a fundamental discontentment with the limitations of human embodied existence. Attempts to separate the two appearances of landscape – as outside and as representation – are themselves imbricated in such conceptions, in either attitude just mentioned or in the paradox of their coexistence' (Bal in Van Alphen, 2014).
The photographs of Daniel Gustav Cramer and Awoiska van der Molen evade translations of cultural representation by excluding any context other than being of nature rather than about nature. In my work, this is not quite the case because there are hints at spiritual culture in the hermitage cells. Does this lessen the neutrality of my images and position them into the realms of representation? Does that make my images about nature as opposed to being of nature? I would argue my images are commenting on the humanised relationship with nature (about nature) with images that are of nature.
Parisi, Chiara. 2010. Daniel Gustav Cramer. Klat Magazine, #04. [online] Available at: http://www.danielgustavcramer.com/pdfs/klat-parisi-cramer.pdf [accessed on 08.04.21]
Sukula, Alan. 1982. On the Invention of Photographic Meaning. In Burgin, Victor (ed.). Thinking Photography. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Van Alphen, Ernst. 2014. Time Saturation: The Photography of Awoiska Van Der Molen. Published in ‘De Witte Raaf’, Belgium. March 2014. Awoiska Van Der Molen [online] Available at: https://www.awoiska.nl/var/upload/essay_alphen_nu.pdf [Accessed on: 26.08.21]