Monday 1 February 2021

Picture Post #61: Outside the Image

'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t what they seemed to be neither will they become what they might appear to become.'

Posted by Tessa den Uyl

Picture credit: Robert Saltzman ‘La Fe’, 2017.

It might take a while to see that the creative feeling in this picture moves beyond the representation of a worshiper who touches the depiction of a Maria. The movement within the sobriety of this picture is of such subtlety that it exposes itself as a feeling rather than a seeing.

The eye immediately selects the strong vertical upward movement of the man with his arm against the painting, accentuated by the stick that the worshiper keeps in his right hand. Instead, the upper left of the frame of the painting, to the lowest forms one diagonal. Repetitive diagonals in opposed direction are drawn by the lower point of the angles of the pews' end-panels to the highest, with the upper right angle of the painting in its midst. In the picture, the vanishing point is to the left (imagine the benches as the floor), which brings us outside of the picture.

Within this classical framework of more- and less-visible lines, exalts the shadow of the man that is cast directly below the Maria. It is this shadow which accentuates the ascendance of the depicted Maria, visually and symbolically.

When one imagines this picture just with the man and the painting, without the shadow, and not in this room, the ‘inexplicable’, the ‘something more’ to life does not show. The eye focuses on a specific form, which the mind elaborates, and hands existence to the selected subject. Though it is not in the main subject but in the space, through the tension and the affinities between things of the surroundings, a subject receives empathy.

The unnoticed is deeply rooted in human being. The synthesis of every creative process is to verify this transpersonal union with the personal, within the contingent, transitory reality in which everything would become insignificant, remaining only personal or only eternal.

If in this picture we would see solely a religious man in a church, we would harm ourselves. Being moved is through the transformation of what we see and feel, and depends on an intrinsic secret of invisible images.


Keith said...

As for my personal take, the sundry text references to various geometric features of the image (verticals, diagonals, points, etc.) — or to abstractions like the transpersonal, tension, affinities, eternality, inexplicable, intrinsic, secret, synthesis, contingency, and invisible — are distractions. I propose they miss the point of the image. Rather, to my mind, the core, much simpler, much more straightforward message of the image is ‘piety’: the man relating on a deeply personal level to the iconic painting of a Maria. The photo’s title, ‘La Fe’ (Faith), seems to confirm what’s being conveyed. Meanwhile, the last paragraph boldly suggests that to think otherwise, one would ‘harm’ him/herself. Only my own reaction of course, but I disagree with that conclusive presumption.

docmartincohen said...

Yes, I did feel that the image had some hidden power - and Tessa's explanation of some of the subtleties to me helps explain not exactly everything, but "something". I agree there is a powerful geometry at work, and also that the shadow plays an important part in the composition. I respect Keith's reaction, though - perhaps Keith is more religious than me! Thus his reaction would surely be different, and each person reacts to an image in their own way, drawing on their experiences and assumptions, of course.

To me, there is a jarring note, though, which is the hand touching the image. I think a Catholic would not mind this, as there is a tradition of "touching" in Church services. But to my tidy, secular mind, one is not supposed to touch the paintings in the gallery! If I were the photographer, I would wait for the man to NOT be touching the image, and imagine that this created a greater sense of reverence. But it is a fine image and thank you for sharing it with us, Tessa and Robert both.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Thank you gentlemen,

If you would have to draw a hand, would you consider what is inside or outside the hand?

For some reason the majority of people consider what is within outlines, while it is the surrounding space which defines an object/subject.

Pointing straight to what one identifies with most, ignores where an idea, an image is placed. This tells about where one places oneself.

Perhaps the man in the picture is saying goodbye to his piety or is a painter returning to - or finishing his artwork? We don't know. We make up a storytelling and judgement while within those stories a lot is overseen.

If, like Keith, one calls the surrounding space an abstraction, then what are we ourselves?

Keith said...

‘If, like Keith, one calls the surrounding space an abstraction, then what are we ourselves?’ If I may be clear, Tessa, I didn’t use the term ‘abstractions’ in sweeping reference to ‘the surrounding space’. Rather, my comment above applied the word ‘abstractions’ to characterise terms like ‘transpersonal, tension, affinities, eternality, inexplicable, intrinsic, secret, synthesis, contingency, and invisible’ sprinkled in the post’s text. All that said, I regard the man’s gesture as a moment of pious connection with the painting of Maria. In fact, despite my own secularist instincts, I respect the passion seemingly buttressing the man’s conviction. I don’t need to share the man’s religious beliefs in order to recognise and esteem and honour his faith — a faith that unmistakably squares with the photo’s laser-like title, ‘La Fe’! Yet, no matter how we might individually slice and dice the photo’s inner workings, the fact we’re having this conversation shows how interestingly evocative the image is. Thanks for bringing this forth.

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

When I first saw the photo, intuitively it conveyed to me the meeting of the sacred and the profane. I thought of a church caretaker, leaning wearily with his broom, of which I even have some photographs. Yet he is not there merely to clean, but to worship. It transforms the profane.

docmartincohen said...

Yes, the weary, sad quality makes the image more powerful…

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