Creating the Positives
Paul Harrison on Alex Kneip’s photos of Tokyo.
I can only imagine this collection of images. Alex has no way of showing them to me. In thefuture I hope to view them, but for now I can only imagine. Imagination then is precisely the point, the logos of any possible topos. A place which is only accessible through the process of capturing, reducing, and refining both light and time. A perfect synthesis of photons and their matching events, materialised into the two dimensions of photography. Photography is special for many reasons it allows us mortal, corrupt, confused, and potentially doomed animals to capture and prolong sections of our existence. The mystery of the still image, a picture in situ, is even now after so many centuries of development and practice. Still quite difficult to explain… we could sketch a quick geology of image making, it looks like this: picture/image – animation – film – virtual reality. You see how pictures are archaic. In the waters of our evolutionary origins, ancestral beings grew primitive sensors, what we now refer to as eyes. Photography then is always dealing with a kind of economy of visibility. Involving temporality, politics, and aesthetic categories. The advent of the I-phone and Instagram has made everyone a photographer… creating a new visual grammar? However, even these new digital platforms and mechanics are animated by reproducing reality. Let’s recite the words of the immortal Walter Benjamin, “technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself. Above all, it enables the original to meet the beholder halfway, be it in the form of a photograph or a phonograph record. […]i ” Benjamin also describes very clearly how unhelpful valuations of cultural heritage are liquidated by the mechanics of the camera. In the epilogue the end of the idea, ‘art for art’s sake’ is thought as being related in some way to a Fascist Fiat ars – pereat mundus (Let technique – lost world).
This Latin phrase is framed between a change in sense perception brought on by the advances of technology. Which is indisputable… One then invites you to embrace this change because Alex has certainly succeeded in exploring the metropolis of Tokyo in a way which subverts and undermines this negative Latinate statement. Through his preference for the physical qualities of film, and his love of his instrument – a Canon A1 camera an object passed down to him from his father. One believes Alex let technique lose one world, an old world which had to bebleft behind. Making room for the new experiences the psycho-geometry of Tokyo’s culture freely offers. In a way this collection of photos shows Tokyo through a similar method of transmission. Alex is the father of these images… the one who exposed these events to scrutiny. People who may look at these pictures can now in line with Benjamin’s thought meet the original experience. One hopes some of these images were taken in 千川 Senkawa, a place where me and Alex met so many people from all walks of life. Translating this place’s name into English you have a ‘thousand rivers’. I would like to invite you the beholder of these images to use the name of our shared home as a narrative. This collection of photos not only represents the spirit of an important time in an individuals life. It should if you look carefully with an open mind and eager imagination. Articulate the potential for true subjectivity as a natural movement, a reduction of the negative into a positive. Or, in other words these images captured the photo-genesis of the moment of cultural assimilation. A year in which a German masterfully explored the urban oasis of this the most famous of Asian cities. May you the reader take inspiration from these photographs, and visit a place of consistent transformation.
深い川は静かに流れる。’Still waters run deep’ Ne?
i.Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction，English trans. Harry Zohn in: H. Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, London, 1973. pp 219‐53
Originally published: Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, V, no. 1, New York, 1936.