MA Photography Arts Final Show
LIGHT INTO MATTER
The idea that light into matter is linked to photography stems from the fact that it seems to describe the technical process of photography. In a basic definition of photography we know that rays of light construct the ‘light-image’ seen on any screen. Most of these images are organised through the (perspective) optics of a camera lens. Whether the light receptors that register these images are made up of digital or analogue receptors makes little difference in this respect.
Yet the translation of light into matter, where light becomes the matter of a photographic image, may also sound counter-intuitive today too, given that the ‘photographic’ seems so much more ephemeral in its everyday material existence. Photographic images appear everywhere on data screens, flickering across their surfaces, as fleeting and transient ‘image-instants’- like ghosts or shadows on a wall. We can hardly keep up with the speed of their in-visibility. Perhaps these cultural experiences of the photographic image as more fleeting and ‘fugitive’ can help to explain the recent surge of interest in archives and analogue processes that fix light on paper in highly material forms.
Photography, in fact, from its very inception aimed to make and transform cultural material into an image, to fix it into matter. Thus, the transformation of ‘light into matter’ means more than merely the technical procedure of making an image. The processes involved are part of a wish to see something, to retain its image for longer, to see it again. So the choices of what, how and where to make images are all part of how any image comes to matter, it shows what is invested in it. These complex processes are what give any image its potential for meaning, whether any particular meaning is intended or not, and whether it involves any explicit ‘message’ or not.
Images matter, not only in the realm of their material form, but also in the realm of culture. The interaction of these two fields of ‘image’ and ‘culture’ are intimately and intensely related. This is why the relation of image-culture is the focus of the works here. The photographic image is shown as a place of work not simply to ‘represent’ something (an event, process, idea, feeling or meaning), but to ask also another question: what matters as an image?
David Bate, Professor of Photography, University of Westminster