Saturday, 6 August 2011
By pairing images there is an impulse to compare. It encourages re-looking and the apprehension of particularity. Pairing can happen within an image in the form of mirror symmetry – reflections off water or mirror or glass, two objects of the same type, twins (when taking the drain-pipes I had in mind Arbus' Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967) - or by the bringing together of two separate images, which may or may not share an overtly common element (and then the pairing becomes a puzzle piquing curiosity, creating a force field of suggestiveness, a surrealist juxtaposition, energy created by their mutual interrogation).
In its record of all details noticed and unnoticed, photography is well suited to teasing out meaning from the juxtaposition of a pair of images simply related to each other by having been taken of the same object or place. This might involve changes in time or lighting (including the hour or season – think of the pear tree in Péter Nádas' Own Death (2006), for example), changes of viewpoint, different framings of the same subject, two parts or details of a whole, returns to sites after time has seen subjective changes as well as objective (changes in how one sees things outside reflecting how there have been changes within oneself). Of particular interest to me is the case of two halves of a symmetric pair of objects, or a twin pair of subjects, each differently marked over time, thereby embedding the trail of the past in its traces on the present state. This raises questions of how and why things worked out differently for the two from their similar starting points: what events occurred to mark this one this way, that one that?
The juxtaposition of images – one and two - could be extrapolated to a sequence – one, two, ..., etc. - and a series of film stills result. (This by the way brings to mind the more complex questions of positioning of images in photomontage that are explored for example by David Hockney. Here I am restricting attention to the linear arrangement of framed images.)
By stopping at two images there is interaction rather than progression: the pair of images inform each other – movement is to and fro from one to the other, reflection brings about reflection. This creates a pendular, contemplative mode of attention. In a series of three images is embedded the implicit movement of progression, unless there is a pair of strongly related images placed around a third (like in altarpiece triptychs), which also brings about the stasis of mirror symmetry – such a triptych is more a central image and a pair around it than three images in succession.
Mirror symmetry does not always produce stasis – think of mise en abyme, or of Narcissus and the lure of the reflected image, suggestive of another world, through the looking glass.