I want to go to a place where photography cannot go on its own — into the realm of Mystery. Arguably no other medium than writing can take us there more easily, but I am not certain of that. I do not know how much Tamara Deuel struggled with her Kaddish paintings — though surely more than I can grasp.
But I do know how utterly banal is the photographic image: all surface and no more. Literally, absolutely, resolutely no more. For many photographers that is enough, and they have cultivated an eye for composition, implied revelation and visual irony that sometimes yields images of profundity and delight. I celebrate their discipline and accomplishments.
But I no longer want to stop at surfaces. I want to dive beneath them, and I want to do it deliberately, purposefully, and in control. So, I have called out the only other medium in which I have some talent: words. Not words or letters as labels or "design elements," but words as narrative, words as story, words as interior journey. Not quite poetry, not quite fiction, but more like invitations to an underworld. More like doorways or windows or peepholes.
If I were a talented musician, perhaps I would have turned to composition, and every gallery show would require an audio system. Or a dancer, a stage or video screen at the very least. A sculptor — I cannot imagine. But I am a writer, so when I want to bring the full force of my ability to bear on meaning in my photography, I turn to words.
Mystery, after all, resides in meanings, not on surfaces, hard, glossy, solidified by the stupid lens. Mystery resides in darkness, and words can take us there, while image cannot. When the world goes dark, the image stops, the camera closes its eye. But words continue to whisper in our ears, call to our unconscious, and stir up dangerous possibilities in the primordial soup of our dreams.
Perhaps I am a tardy Surrealist, following Breton's Manifesto to wallow “in the omnipotence of the dream, and the disinterested play of thought.” If so, it is an accident of temperament, because I did not make an intellectual choice to follow this path but did so out of desperation, the angst of insufficiency I feel when looking at my own banal camerawork. It looks back at me with a kind of defiant sneer, daring me to attack. And so I do.