A photograph that “does not see the light”

Giuseppe Cicozzetti


Driven by Truffaut to provide a definition of cinema, Alfred Hitchock replied: “drama is life with the dull bits cut out”, a story by images, that is, purified during the script phase by the parts deemed uninteresting or which weigh down the performance. Everything must be fluid, logical, understandable and functional to history. Nonetheless, photography is involved in the same crisis: how to tell a story so that it reaches the observer without stumbling into narrative blocks? Moreover: what is the criterion adopted for some photographs to be condemned to oblivion? Also, an even more suggestive question: are we really sure that the “discarded” photographs do not possess their own autonomous expressive force? In this case we would be faced with a story in the story?

“we really sure that the ‘discarded’ photographs do not possess their own autonomous expressive force?”

Contact sheet, identical twins by Diane Arbus, 1967

A story in the story that, for the reasons we took interest into it, would remain silent, surpassed by the official nature of the photographer’s authorial selection. Given that each photographer has their own rights to eliminate or save what they deem appropriate, we are left with curiosity about the fate of, so to speak, the neglected images. Since we are interested in providing ourselves with a different angle from which to look at things, it becomes intriguing to abandon the main path to delve into the world of discarded images, of that portion of “dull” life (to return to Hitchock’s quote) and try to restore them to the dignity they deserve, trying, among other things, to meet the dilemma of every photographer.

“A photograph that “does not see the light” is in itself already a very powerful oxymoron”

There is no doubt – unless the images are wrong from the start – that a photographer establishes a connection with his photographs as a father with his children; he will love them, and to part from them, as to let part of his work never see the light is poignant as an abandonment. However, there is a selection to be made and therefore those “lesser of children” will be considered as something that can be sacrificed. A photograph that “does not see the light” is in itself already a very powerful oxymoron, an attempt to stabilize its own ontology, the reason why it was born and has thrived and that’s why you can likely imaging them in possession of an alternative life, their redemption. So looking at a discarded photo is a gesture that engages listening although the view, because between those unconvincing shots, in the slippery cut, between the imbalance of the lights or simply because “the other” came better we listen to their voices with a “pietas” that does isn’t equal to the admiration of official photographs, so to speak.

René Burri, Che Guevara, Havana, 1963. © René Burri/Magnum Photos.

What does a photo, that is not there, tell? It tells of a distance, of an unsteady geometry that has not been able to connect the photographer with the subject. But most of all, it tells us of a defeat consumed in the bulimia of shots that digital photography invites you to. This point is crucial. Those fractions of time, those equally unrepeatable moments, however, are doomed to be forgotten, as if the words we do not recognize would disappear from paper, lifted by the wind; the truest words, perhaps, but which in the economy of history are oblique, alienating, different. Exile is ready for photos that we do not “recognize”. I imagine them anything but unhappy to tell their stories, the vicissitudes, the sense of those moments that you want to be cancelled. I imagine telling their secrets, who knows. But certainly no one will have lost the awareness of being part of a story that has not yet finished being told.

Giuseppe Cicozzetti

Alive, at least for the moment.
He deals with photography by writing about it on Scriptphotography.
He lives in Sicily.