Quotational Photography

by zunguzungu

As my chapter desperately oozes uphill towards completion, I keep coming across pieces of writing that are more or less complete unto themselves, yet which I originally wrote long enough ago to have become completely alienated from. Especially since the writing that preceded and followed it is now lost, I find myself weirdly paralyzed when I try to figure out what to do with them; the context informing them is lost and the telos towards which they pointed has moved off camera forever.

This paragraph, for example, just comes out of nowhere in the massive field of compositional detritus that I’ve pasted at the end of the chapter:

“Photography is, in very particular ways, both constructed by and irreconcilable with the narratives of social change in which it is embedded. While “realism” has almost always been implicated in a desire for progress — it is thoroughly a truism to note that the realist novel attempts to capture reality in order to transform it — photography is both the ultimate realist medium, and one which can never satisfy its own ambitions. A photograph offers the fiction of total reality, yet a photograph never changes.”

I’m moved by it; its voice convinces me of its author’s authority. Yet while I have no doubt that some version of that thought will emerge in the final version of the chapter, that piece of writing itself now feels as if it were written by someone else. I trust that the author knew what he meant by “total reality,” but in becoming his reader, I’ve forgotten what it was. And I can’t change it or revise it without losing the thread or the aura that runs through it. It just sits there, like a photograph of my thinking at another time, locked in that moment.