February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
“When we look at photographs which privilege documentation over imagination, we are seeing seeing. Little room is left us, the viewers, for insight or interpretation. What we’re shown is what we cannot help noticing if our eyes are open. Anyone, for example, can understand a picture of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The problem with this kind of seeing is that what we observe may have nothing to do with the truth of the matter represented. That’s not to say it has nothing to do with fact. But fact, as we know, is more often the sales pitch of the powerful than a hallmark of the universal. In Spencer’s work, however, truth manifests itself by negation of fact. We see what history can never regain, what the news can never define, what advertisements can never sell.
Seeing, for instance, has very little to do with what we experience in a photograph like Cloud/Tree, where air, water, and land invade the horizon so entirely that one can hardly think of any other word for it than sublime—that sense of the monstrous in the elemental, in the presence of which all human intent withers into triviality. ”