- Anonymous (Press Photo), Rock and Mud ˈGrand Finaleˈ, California, c. 1930
Silver gelatin print, 19.7 x 24.7 cm
- NYT Photo, Wind Tunnel in Chalais Meudon, 1935
Silver gelatin print, 18 x 24 cm
- Anonymous, Untitled, c. 1955
Silver gelatin print, about 5.5 x 5.5 cm
- Anonymous (International News Photos), Untitled
Silver gelatin print, 16.5 x 21.5 cm
Photographs often seem familiar and understandable, a visual common sense intimately related to our daily lives. But they can also provoke a spark of amazement or generate a more sustained perplexity and inquiry. Curated by the renowned French photo historian, Michel Frizot, 'Every Photograph is an Enigma' interrogates this paradox.
Immediately a photograph is taken it generates a distance between what the image reveals and what we have seen for ourselves only seconds before.
This observation of disparity is central to the phenomenon of photography, creating a sense of indeterminacy that we might describe as the singularity of the photographic. As Frizot himself puts it, "the photograph is not in its essence a transparency through which we gain access to a known reality but, on the contrary, a source of ambiguity and often, perplexity. The photographic image is a constellation of questions for the eye because it offers viewers forms and signs they have never perceived as such and which conflict with their natural vision".
Every Photograph is an Enigma draws out the full implications of this disparity, everything which constitutes the singularity of the photographic process. This begins with the selection procedure itself: Frizot has collected the photographs over many years, with no predetermined objective, finding scraps and castoffs at flea markets and jumble sales. Abandoned photographs escape traditional standards of classification and judgement and are often the work of anonymous photographers. For Frizot, this artlessness offers ‘an extra touch of photographic naturalness which is not shrouded in convention‘. It is the work of the exhibition to reveal, and the role of the visitor to discover, this photographic supplement.
'Every Photograph is an Enigma' brings together a remarkable selection of everyday photographs, selected over many years by one of the sharpest eyes in the history photography. It offers us the opportunity of a liberated escape into a 'pure' photographic act stripped of artistic pretension or historical portent. As Frizot proposes, there are no hierarchies in photography – it is the activity of the gaze that reveals the richness of the image. For the eye, every photograph is an enigma.
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