We have reached the end of the book Contrast. Photography in Higher Education and it is in the inspiring light of this experience that exposes Photography as a living and open system, that I emphasize the photographic image as a holistic entity between things and people. Photography, this labyrinth of infinite artistic possibilities, linked more or less closely to other languages, is the creator of perceptive and mental environments, of stories, of atmospheres that propose modes of habitation in time and space. Photography that is not indifferent to life is always important.
Peter Zumthor uses a term that may seem too sentimental to those who prefer more objective and determined arguments: commotion. It is when he seeks what architectural quality is for him that he speaks of the building that moves him or fails to move him. We will not deal here with emotion as an experience of the limit or as the imminence of the sublime. There is no need to call out Burke, Kant, or the rebirth of the sublime that Lyotard deals with. What interests us now is the relationship Zumthor makes between the building that moves him and the atmosphere suggested by an interior angle photograph of the Broad Street station in Richmond, Virginia. He confesses in the book Atmosphären that having never visited the building, he wants to project “something similar to the space in this photograph” that he repeatedly looks at. It is a space that is guessed to be even wider, with high ceilings, with columns, lamps, running benches, some strollers who don’t appear in the foreground, but move around there. And the light and the shadow. The tone, the timbre, the contrast, the texture, the color. The photograph of that interior opens up a world that is an immediate impression of an atmosphere and a sensation that, with more time, can unfold into many other impressions, sensations, ideas and desires, such as the desire to project something that moves “again and again. Photography that means beyond the supremacy of vision and the gaze, because the senses are corporeal and consciousness and the body do not dispense with each other. The cult of the gaze eventually becomes narcissistic and therefore nihilistic, by separating the self from the other and from the world that is multisensory.
Juhanni Pallasmaa in The Eyes of the Skin (among other works) scolds heavily on the hegemony of the gaze and the sense of sight, being, for example, “impossible to think of a nihilistic sense of touch”. And we realize well how this denunciation fits into the vertiginously visual reality of our days. Therefore, photography and the other artistic forms with which it joins or in which it participates suppose the fascinating invitation to interpret the images in a wider perceptive and mental context, undoubtedly more complex, more intriguing, but also more complete. The attribution of meaning to things through Photography, preserving the reputation of the technique, is a source of debate about the synesthetic sense of aesthetic experience and the preservation and communication of knowledge. Thus, from the numerous texts on what may be the direction that artistic culture is heading, including its uncertainties, we evoke Juhanni Pallasmaa’s Six Themes for the Next Millennium (Encounters. Architectural Essays). This reflection which is also an homage to the inspirational source – Calvin’s Five American Lessons – claims the challenge facing architecture to dialogue with the various branches of knowledge necessary to fulfill its function of enabling the “existential sense of truly inhabiting space.” The Photography thought and shown in Contrast proposes the artist-photographer as an experimenter who, starting from the things of existence as raw material, adds to the power of art for the humanizing understanding of our time.