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Issue 143

Snappy Snaps

An excerpt from the forthcoming treatise on photography by Jean-Philippe Obu-Stevenson: Snappy Snaps: Irrigating the Re-Un-De-Framed Conceptual Contextual Medium Mediation of the Imaged Photographic Picture (Editions Obu-Stevenson, Schipol Airport, 2012)

BY Jean-Philippe Obu-Stevenson in Opinion | 01 NOV 11

Soon after Roland [Barthes] obtained his restraining order against me, I received a letter from Susan [Sontag], who, with wry sensitivity, wrote:

Never, ever, under any circumstances, try and contact us again, you asshole, or me and Annie will personally head over to Schipol Airport, or whatever sewer outlet it is you fester in, and beat the living daylights out of that empty, careerist, narcissistic skull of yours.

It was these wise words from one of the great writers on photography that encouraged me to begin my journey down the long road towards the game-changing philosophical meditation that you now hold reverently in your hands.

Those readers familiar with my work will recognize that my central thesis is a characteristically complex and important one: namely, and to put it concisely, that in looking at the photographic image, what we are doing is, in a sense – or, if you will, in the manifold senses of sense qua the sensational – beholding by way of our eyes (that is to say, receiving visual information through ocular means that could be construed [if we are, for a moment, to put aside Wittgenstein’s reluctance to define his own position – though not withstanding his extant ((that is to say, documented)) definitions – regarding the ((as opposed to [though also aligned perpendicular with] ‘a’)) phenomenological] by our brains as what I venture to hereby term as ‘seeing’) a document-of-the-world-that-is-not-the-actual-thing-but-looks-really-realistic-almost-as-if-you-had-been-there. The photograph, therefore – thereforely, as a consequence of, that is to say ‘logically-arriving-towards’, sidling up to and offering to buy a drink – is the result of having deployed the apparatus of the camera in such a way as to have ‘captured’ – or kidnapped, abducted, imprisoned, renditioned – a ‘subject’ (and I shall fully define what I mean by ‘subject’ in chapter 374) by means of ‘pointing’ said camera apparatus ‘at’ a given ‘subject’ and ‘clicking the shutter’ so as to – if you will, pardon my French, what’s your poison – expose the film, register the celluloid, convert light waves into digital information etcetera, which we can then – via a careful methodology of production, processing, downloading, fiddling with, sending off to the chemists, and/or though not exclusively but quite often, accidentally deleting –understand as a photo of something. Thus, when Roland in his essays on photography writes of the studium and the punctum, I frankly couldn’t care less.

Of course, ‘yes’, but at the same time – with a coy glance towards ‘maybe’ and a regretful nod in the direction of ‘next time, baby, next time’ – we could also say ‘no’, and within this penumbration of photo-graphic-speech-act-as-time-table, we can perceive the presentness of your onceness within an absence of thenness as the photograph journeys towards my nowness and ultimately disappears up the fundament of a collective hurry-up-and-get-on-with-it futureness of will-be-ness. Once (and arguably twice, maybe even three times a lady) the viewer finds themselves outside and anterior to (or perhaps, if you will allow, slightly on top of) this temporally positioned strategic task force, we can perform a tidy three-point turn and parallel park ourselves within the gap left between the past (in the future sense of the term) and the future (in its strict historical sense). With this in mind, it becomes abundantly clear that I retroactively influenced Roland in the writing of his 1980 book On Camera, and Susan’s 1977 collection of essays, Photography Lucida.

Round the back of my argument, just-near-the-recycling-with-all-the-back-issues-of-Amateur-Photographer-magazine, is the notion that if a photograph tells us that my now is the tomorrow of your yesterday, then I’ve got a great one-size-fits-all title for a group show. Not only is it my intention with this publication to mention as many photographers as possible so as to ensure that any institutions staging future photo­graphy exhibitions will stock my book in their museum shop, but also to prove once and for all that Michael Fried should’ve called his last book Why Jean-Philippe Obu-Stevenson Matters to Art as Never Before and that anyone writing any books or articles on photography from this moment on will have copied me and will be hearing from my lawy… [That’s more than enough. Jesus Christ, we’re really scraping the barrel with this clown. Have we not got anything better to publish? – Ed.]