How Does Photography Appear to Appear?

How Does Photography Appear to Appear?

Laura Chen, from the series Finders Keepers, 2019. Courtesy of the author.

Photography shares little with the logic of simulation and simulacrum, instead it facilitates a dimension within which people and objects we photograph emerge from an impossible frame. Its intrigue resides in the palpable sense of impossibility that photographs render visible to us. This sleight of hand obfuscates the question of how appearance appears. In Finders Keepers, Dutch photographer Laura Chen works with imagery sourced from undeveloped films purchased from eBay and car-boot sales. When Chen develops the films, the real of someone else’s reality is transformed into art. Left undeveloped, these images occupy nowhere in particular, but Chen makes appearances fill in a void and poses a question which is not one of “why” but of “where” are images? Furthermore, in seeking out meanings, the magic of photography is understood through the misdirection of illusion and appearance. What is more useful is to ask how photography appears to appear?

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What makes photographs so complex is how they render visible that which should not be possible to see. Therefore, in some way, all photographs teach us how to see and set out the co-ordinates for our visual understanding.
Reading time: 13 min.

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