Tree. Bell. Adinath Trithankar Jain Mandir, Ajmer, India. November 7, 1995. Platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose (Wyndstone vellum), from original 8×10 negative.
My great aunt moved to this temple in her late teens, and remained here as a nun for the rest of her life. Sacred ground, not for the tragedy of being human, but because of how well it was occupied, how it was a place of goodness, how it cradled light.
In a previous post I wrote about making the same kind of photograph repeatedly, of working from a motif, of walking back and forth on the same bridge. There is a twist to this. Going beyond what others say–
(e.g. ‘The camera generates events other than the photographs anticipated as coming into being through its mediation, and the latter are not necessarily subject to the full control of the agent who holds the camera. The properties and nature of the camera could now suddenly emerge into public view, and it rapidly became apparent that the camera possesses its own character and drives. The camera might, at times, appear to be obedient, but it is also capable of being cunning, seductive, conciliatory, vengeful or friendly…’- Azoulay, Ariella. “Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology of Photography.” Verso, 2015.)
–I believe that a core part of this ‘bridge’ we traverse is made of the processes (languages) themselves, ranging not just from camera to photographer to those who look at photographs but also including the lens, the negative, the sensors, the printing process, size, framing, and viewing context. In sum, the photographic print sometimes exists despite the photographer. This temple, Adinath Trithankar Mandir, exists despite my great aunt, and yet, is entirely consistent with what my great aunt means to me.
That is why I strongly believe that art education is at its best when it fosters practices that build on cross-disciplinary (I do not mean multi-media) education and experience. Language is art, is making, and so, in this case, with photography. Language brings humankind to expressions despite what we know and deposits us on the edges of what we imagine (poieses). Alexander von Humboldt, in the concluding sentences of his last major work, “Kosmos”, says this much more eloquently:
‘…laws of a more mysterious
nature rule the higher spheres of the organic world, in which
is comprised the human species in all its varied conformation,
its creative intellectual power, and the languages to which
it has given existence. A physical delineation of nature
terminates at the point where the sphere of intellect begins,
and a new world of mind is opened to our view. It marks the
limit but does not pass it.’