room light

I lie awake in a midnight room, my eyes remain transfixed to the walls. I woke up tonight not to a sound, but to a sight: Branches gliding around the walls. A production presented by a slit in the curtain, a nearby maple, and a glowing street lamp. I watch the light float for some time. Another glow appears in my peripheral, this time coming from my phone on the floor. Within arm’s reach, I pick it up and get lost.

The world I enter is flooded with images, so much so, that it has stifled many. In a world where everyone has a camera in their pocket, the rate at which we process images gets faster and faster and approaches the extent of which our brains can handle. I am often posed questions such as, “What is the role of photographers in a photo-concentrated society?” Certainly, this inquisition is self-reflective and can easily lead to a paralyzed shutter.

Wall Leaves, 2020 by Calder Sell

We must recognize that images have always circulated our spaces. Where there is light, there are images. Cover your windows with a large sheet and cut a tiny hole in the middle. You will slowly witness an image float into your interior and develop onto surfaces.

These images of the outside world are not regularly seen only because the space itself does not allow them to; the architecture dictates the clarity of the images. The light coming in is usually not concentrated through a tiny hole but through larger exposures such as windows. In this case, the images entering are blended together into featureless forms.

Hiroshi Sugimoto examined a similar incidence in excess to that observed on the internet in his project entitled, “Theaters”. Noticing an inundation of the quantity of images making up a feature-length film, he chose to leave his camera shutter open for the entirety of a film in order to “shut away the ghosts resurrected by the excess of photographic after-images” (Sugimoto). The resulting image reveals a glowing white rectangle emitting light to a shadow-blanketed theater. For Sugimoto, photographs represent physical reconstructions of past moments. Being faced with an excess of these ghostly reminders, his response was to silence them into serenity. His results show that, with time, an excess of images transforms into nothingness trapped in a frame.

Kenosha Theater, Kenosha, 2015 by Hiroshi Sugimoto

From the example of Sugimoto’s Theaters, we can realize that the internet is a bound in itself which, taken as a whole, drowns into the pool of a black screen. Similar to this is the white cube gallery Brian O’Doherty presents us in his article, “Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space.” O’Doherty explains that we can only evaluate a piece of art in a gallery which eliminates all conversation with the outside world (O’Doherty). However, we are then presented with an artificial, closed-off ecosystem that resembles nothing of how the world realistically functions, where outside influences constantly infiltrate our thoughts subconsciously. Similarly, a single light leak from the outside world will infiltrate the entire perception of space. These restrictive frames create an unnecessary pressure that deceive individuals that they lack the power to leave and expand their horizons. Recognizing that these bounds are artificial, the process of stepping out of this world of infinite images is simplified. We can also take comfort in knowing we have always been immerse inside of this world of images and have simply chosen not to find them. As silent as these hidden images are on our walls, the images on the internet can be pushed aside just as much. We simply need to shut out the ghosts.

Waterfall, 2020 by Calder Sell

I shift to lying on my side. Next to the dancing branches sit three, static lines of light pasted on the wall. I think of Sugimoto’s Theaters and wonder what worlds have been paused within each of these portals of light. With millions of images hidden underneath each gleam, I imagine an image’s journey, riding on the river of light within our universe, leaking into my room, and splashing onto
the surface. It has made its journey to where it is now but will not be soon. It will continue on, floating. 

O'Doherty, Brian. Inside the White Cube: the Ideology of the Gallery Space. Univ. of Calif. Pr., 1986.

Sugimoto, Hiroshi, and Takaaki Matsumoto. Hiroshi Sugimoto: Theaters. Damiani and Matsumoto Editions, 2016.

Taggart, Emma. “The History of Camera Obscura and How It Was Used as a Tool to Create Art in Perfect Perspective.” 2020. My Modern Met. July 20, 2020.