With four chapters behind us, we are delighted to publish our fifth chapter for our forthcoming book ‘Away with Words’, this will be published early next year.
Our assignment for this chapter was ‘Hope’ and we have selected M. Cecilia São Thiago’s image from the selection we were sent, as we feel it epitomises this subject, for our fifth of twelve 1000 word essays, personally written by myself.
This non fiction work merges discursive scholarship with what may be construed as personal flights of fancy. That is not to say it will disappoint, moreover I have given myself a far and wide range to delve into photography, literature, art, theory, design and music as I tease out my own offbeat associations and at the same time astutely tune into each mobile photographers key tropes and artfully deconstruct their imagery. I thus begin:
What are we looking at?
We are looking from above at the body of a white male. He has a full body of light brown hair on his head but is without hair around his face, other than this clearly defined eye brows and elongated eye lashes, visbiile from one eye. One ear is clearly evident, along with a prominent nose and full lips. He is a man of around 25 years old. If we divide this image into compass points, he is facing south west, so only the left of his face is clearly distinguishable but as we are looking down, his features become smaller within the depth. It is not possible to interpret if he is wearing clothes as there are pink flesh colours mixed with white, against a black background. The pink may represent his naked body and the white may represent some form of clothing or cloth around his body. The white is positioned towards the north west and north east sections predominately with more beneath his chin in a southerly position. The mans hair is sticking upwards and his cheek bones appear to match his lips forming into a wistful smile. The only reasonably clear view of his entire body is of his head. We cannot see his torso, arms, legs or feet but as he looks healthy and alive, we envisage these physical elements do exist, they are just not present in the view we are being exposed to.
How can the image be interpreted?
The young white male appears to be descending at great speed into the depths of darkness. From the appearance of his facial features, he appears happy to be doing this. We do know that in terms of physical cosmology that dark energy is unknown form of energy which is hypothesised to permeate all of space, tending to accelerate the expansion of the universe. Therefore, could it be that this young man is falling into a black hole? There are two scenarios with the outcome of this, one being that this man would be incinerated instantaneously, the second is that he would remain unharmed. He does not appear to be distressed in anyway, given what we can see of his facial clues. Therefore, we are siding with the latter. In terms of the descending into a black hole theory, Einstein taught us that gravity warps space itself, causing it to curve. So given a dense enough object, space-time can become so warped that it twists in on itself, burrowing a hole through the very fabric of reality. Stephen Hawking predicted what’s known as ‘Hawking radiation’, this is when the event horizon is ablaze with energy. Quantum effects at the edge create streams of hot particles that radiate back out into the universe. Could this be what Thiago is trying to demonstrate with her image? The young man’s lips are pursed, he cannot call out, even if there were anybody to listen, there’s no air in space but this might only be the conclusion if he were plunging to a contorted death but perhaps Thiago is focusing on what was named by Einstein as the ‘happiest thought”? Therefore, this young man is in freefall, feeling no gravity and he’s sailing into nature’s most ominous destination without a bounce, shimmy or stretching or scalding radiation. If the black hole were too small the force of nature would be much stronger at his feet, and his head would be stretched out, but this is not the case. His head is of normal proportions, although we cannot see his lower body. I feel comfort in imagining that this is a big black hole and big enough for our man, just the right size. So he can keep descending and living out his natural human life whilst being sucked into a space-time continuum.
Our lives are to a certain extent controlled only by time motoring forwards, we cannot experience time backwards. In that sense, we don’t need to fall into a black hole to live our lives, we cannot switch and live our lives in the past, as much as we cannot shift against the pressure of the descending into a black hole and escape. So, in my intrepretation of this image, is about hope with the interpretation of time, upon our lives. Whether it’s possible to live life backwards, forwards, or in the present, perhaps what’s more important, is to live our lives with positivity, with hope and with gratitude.
The relationship between this image and our interpretation represents visual literacy. The is fundamentally important both as a photographer and a reviewer. Many photographers that I interview, explain that ‘they’re not good with words”, they explain that they use photographs to ‘speak’ for them. I would say, unless the photographer and the reviewer have the tools to re-conceptualise photographs, then the images themselves, only become records of time. Photographs, much like words, need to be encoded (when capturing the shot) and decoded by the reviewer. The photographer has the power to add additional context to an image, to encode it further. Of course, the interpretation a reviewer gives to a photograph is subjective and partial to their own lives, experience and to a certain extent their education. One photograph, can be interpreted in many ways, none would be wrong. In the context of our Hope assignment, this image encapsulates all that we looked and indeed, hoped for. It represents an optimistic state of mind, it hankers to wanting something to happen or to be true most of all, it cherishes a desire with anticipation.
M. Cecilia Sao Thiago has created an image that has given me much pause for thought, it’s one that has impregnated by mind and it stays with me.
If you would like to take part in our ‘Away with Words’ book and submit an image to be interpreted. Please follow this link to find out more about our latest assignment ‘ladylike’.
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