Many photographs seek to document an experience, a person, an object, or a place. They succeed when they “capture” it, holding onto a fleeting moment and preserving it for posterity. However, a photograph also succeeds when it contains more than what it depicts: countless memories, anecdotes, and richly layered emotional registers remain invisible in the image itself and impossible to capture. A good photograph, in the words of the Hervé Guibert, is not necessarily one that makes a person or a place visible, but one that is “faithful to the memory of my emotion.”
Better known for his portraits, Guibert also photographed interiors, inanimate objects, and empty rooms—an important body of work that remains relatively unknown. More laconic and reserved, these photographs offer an approach to portraiture where what counts is what is missing from the image: charged with love as well as with trauma, these interior spaces invite imaginative readings of the people who belong or once belonged there. His photographs expose the artist’s most intimate spaces while also maintaining the secrecy of private moments, with the protagonists kept safely (or tragically) out of the frame or at a distance. Instead of providing a sense of objectivity or “truth,” this exhibition points to all that is invisible in a photograph: memories, anecdotes, absences, and richly layered subjectivities. Guibert’s photographs of objects and domestic spaces are full of the ghostly absence of those who had inhabited them and left them behind. In that sense, this exhibition considers those “truths” that lie dormant within a photograph, invisible to the eye, and yet central to the image. It proposes images about what is absent from images. The Bay Area, where photographs are digital and omnipresent, provides a context for seeking a perspective and an evaluative distance from the many habits and assumptions that inform our everyday relationship with images today. Placed within this rich historical and cultural context, this exhibition pauses to reflect on what remains beyond the reach of photography: the emotional lives hidden behind its objects and the stories forgotten by its subjects.
at CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco
until July 30, 2022