‘Rapture’ (or a photograph by Christer Strömholm, or my return to blogging, etc)

It’s almost two years since my book, Grime Kerbstone Psalms was published. In that time I have completed the writing of another two full collections of poetry, as well as amassed a horde of neglected fragments, false-starts, half-dawns, orphan-paragraphs and exiled verses, etc. I am, for the first time in over fifteen years, not writing. I am All Wrote Out.

I discovered this photograph recently. It is by Christer Strömholm. I cannot stop thinking about it.

Christer Strömholm

Before my book was published I used to write here regularly. I felt that I was ‘on the internet’ back then. I used this blog to journal my travails through art and life, to reflect on my writing practises etc. I recently moved every post from this blog into the trash folder, not realising that they are erased after thirty days. Now I no longer write here. I no longer feel as though I am ‘on the internet’. I feel like I am falling through the internet. Or rather, through a labyrinth of images. It has become clear to me recently, through observing my current online habits, that the internet is primarily, for me, a way to immerse myself in images. The internet is an image factory, and I am attendant at its conveyor belt, but have no idea of my purpose within this factory anymore.

We once had a project, remember? Please, friend, remind me. What was our project again?

Back to the image. Like I say, I cannot stop thinking about the Christer Strömholm photograph above. There are so many ways into this photograph, the myriad possible approaches towards its invitation, and all of those entrances are on fire.

Since having my book published, and completing a further two currently unpublished collections, the electric alphabet that once burned inside me has been replaced by an empty photograph album, and a thirst of another kind. When I blink I hear a camera’s mechanical click and my heart heaves again.

I do not know the name of the photograph above, if it has one, nor the context in which it was taken. But I cannot stop thinking about it.

The scene is smoke-filled. Is it the scene of a party with smoke-machine, or is it the scene of a disaster? Does the hand across the child’s face seek to help or hinder? Is it an adult protecting the child from witnessing horror? Was the hand intended to mask the mouth from the smoke? Is the hand the courier of an impish joke?

I often think about Blake’s admonishment that we look ‘through the eye’ not ‘with the eye’. I think that what he was advocating was the transcendence of the ego, of the subject/object binary, of the ‘I’ that has or uses the ‘eye’. Blake asked that we relinquish duality and become sight itself. Maybe this is the project I have mislaid.

Back to the Christer Strömholm photograph that I can’t stop thinking about.

At a certain age a hand is put before our eyes, maybe as soon as we are born, and this flesh-visor is the inheritance of a visual culture. A way of seeing is passed on to us, a language of comprehension. Is that inheritance symbolised by the elder’s hand which is being placed over the eyes of the child in the photograph? Is this why I am on the internet scouring for the images of cinema and photography? Am I resisting the hand-visor of inherited visual culture? Or is my searching, in fact, the actual adopting of this visage? Is the internet, the elder, placing the hand over the eyes of the child, that is me?

What does it mean to consume images? Are the images consumed? Or the viewer?

I recently watched ‘Arrebato’ (Rapture) by Iván Zulueta. All through the film the line is drawn between the shooting of drugs and the shooting of images, the addiction to representation, the addiction, more like, to preservation, whether the formaldehyde of narcotics or the camera.

I am not writing poetry at the moment. I have just bought a camera.

At the end of Arrebato the camera devours them. All that’s left is a red stain upon a roll of film.

My new camera feels so great in my hands. Like a freedom-pass. Like the key to the city. Like a loaded gun.