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The Photograph, Reconsidered

Shuddhabrata Sengupta

The photograph is an antidote to clocks, and a remedy for the infectious diseases of the time-table.
The photograph is a prophet, a poet, a liar. The photograph, like something ancient and vegetal, eats light to live, but in the end, needs darkness to defer its own inevitable erasure.
The photograph is a mortician, a magician, a maverick.
The photograph is a trustworthy custodian of secrets, because it cannot tell what it does not show.
The photograph is a translator, a trickster, a traitor, a trader in truth and other approximations.
The photograph is a library of shadows, a ledger of detail, a silo filled with grains that can feed a famine of meaning.
The photograph is a post-man, a locksmith, a janitor.
The photograph curls at the edges of memory, fades, changes colour, air-brushes and re-frames itself in an archive.
The photograph is a spy, a speculator, a spin-doctor, a spiller of beans when necessary.
The photograph teaches itself to forget, tricks itself to remember, makes adjustments to compensate for every shade of amnesia.

The photograph can be a turn-coat and a turn-on at the same time.
The photograph conducts an orchestra in silence. Its music can be listened to, but never heard.
The photograph executes the last will and testament of each pixel, identifies the object of investigation, and arrests the gaze of its beholder.

The photograph is a fraction of a second, sentenced to life.


Rajesh Vora: Donors list at a Jain Temple, Mumbai, 1980; Remains of a closed textile mill, Mumbai, 2002. Digital photographs