by Rick Dingus
Everything changes over time—not just physical conditions, but also perceptions and understandings. Framed by a new set of considerations, previously unrelated topics can suddenly and surprisingly seem connected; or, a well-known subject can look unfamiliar when viewed in a different light.
Like mirrors, photographs reflect the constantly evolving subjects of our interest, and the shifts in our understanding that manifest as we look. If making photographs is a gesture of participation, so is reading them. Viewers of photographs continue the process of interpretation long after the photographer's work is done. Mixed signals are common in everyday life and photographs echo this ambiguity by posing more questions than they can answer.
The information recorded by cameras is fascinating and convincing, even if the details sometimes tease, distract, or keep us from recognizing larger patterns of significance that lie behind the surface of how things appear. After decades of critical debate and the arrival of the digital era, it seems obvious that photography is illusory and unavoidably biased as a witness. But the value of this observation is incomplete unless we consider that there are many means in addition to photography by which we regularly project limited assumptions about what we believe to be true.
The problematic aspects of photography are not unrelated to the problematic nature of our other relations. Because of this, photographs remain powerful touchstones for experience. They are valuable as catalysts by which we contemplate and re-consider a broad variety of subjects. An intriguing residue of our obsession with looking and thinking about the things we see, photographs are elusive markers of our complex engagements with each other and the world.