Picture a young Jacques Lacan on a fishing trip. His face is illuminated by the reflected light from a discarded sardine tin floating in the sea. He squints. One of his companions, Petit-Jean, notices and asks Lacan: “You see that can? Do you see it? Well, it doesn’t see you!” This wisecrack prompts laughter, and Lacan is anything but invisible. He is conspicuous, exposed to view; he is written by the sun; he is, in a word, photo-graphed. Understandably, he draws the opposite conclusion regarding the gaze. “The picture is in my eye,” Lacan would write years later, “but me, I am also in the picture.”
As a painter my engagement with the medium of photography is rudimentary. After all, the scanograph is laughably simplistic, the 21st century equivalent of the photogram. If the optical scanner holds my attention, it is because it promises a pure, straightforward visibility. It simply registers visual data, all over and without bias; one is tempted to say that it sees as if it cannot be seen. Of course, this does not mean that the scanner produces evidence of the spectacle played out before it. Tragically it cannot fulfill its promise, as each pass sets a new stage upon which the viewer’s desire will disorganize the view and the work of art will throw up its camouflage.