THE ESSENCE OF PHOTOGRAPHY AS SEEN IN AHAE’S WORK

Dr. Claudio de Polo Saibanti / President, Fratelli Alinari Fondazione per la Storia della Fotografia, Florence and Dr. Monica Maffioli / Scientific Director, Alinari National Museum of Photography, Florence

To look out your own window, opening your eyes to something beyond those four walls towards the world that is beyond you and beyond what seems to be reality: this is the theme which, since the camera was invented, has accompanied it and determined how it is used. The visual medium that allows us to multiply to infinity the perspective of what we know.

The first photography in history, taken between 1826 and 1827 by Nicéphore Nièpce, is a scene from the window of the house at his estate, Le Gras. It captures the architectural space it faces out on to, revealing a metaphysical and quite unreal play of light and dark created by the light of the sun over the long period of time required for the pose, from dawn to dusk, in order to fix on the pewter disk this first image “painted by nature”. In search of the “firsts” of this invention that revolutionized our way of seeing, among the earliest and most famous experiments by Daguerre is the view taken in Paris between 1938-39 from his window on Boulevard du Temple. An image that is exemplary of the technical and mass potential of this new means of reproduction that has become an icon in photographic history. It is in this scene that the lens captures a living being for the first time: a man posed, immobile, in front of a shoeshine boy, transforming this completely unplanned and fortuitous presence into the epiphany of the real world that is seen through the camera, turning it into memory offered to the annals of history.

From the very first, it was acknowledged that the photographic medium had the ability to capture the real world in a much more realistic way than any other means of graphic reproduction could match. It succeeded in showing what the human eye could not capture due to the fact that it had to make certain choices within its visual memory that were dependent on the individual’s level of attention.

Unaware of what occurs in front of the lens, but trusting to the mechanical ability of the camera the task of recording the scene and any action that happens automatically irrespective of his own volition, Ahae’s photographic activity would seem to hearken back to the original value attributed to the photographic medium as an unconscious means for recording the world around us and in this way rendering its material essentiality evident.

From Ahae’s window, nature is seen: the object of his attention and philosophy of life; the goddess to which he dedicates his singular photographic poem, a paean to purity and authenticity of the natural world that celebrates itself thanks to the camera and the thousands of photos that in a systematic rhythmic sequence are snapped over time by the digital device. There is no meddling from the photographer in the act of composition, just a single framing imposed within the limits of the horizon from his own window where, nonetheless, the action takes place observing the temporal rhythms dictated by the cycles of nature, by the hours of the day as well as the seasons and life and death, following that infinite cyclic nature of things that renders reality transcendental.

From this standpoint, the work Ahae offers us makes him akin to a photographic ascetic, the hermit who entrusts his camera and the thousands of images it takes on a daily basis to a filmed sequence through which the landscape, living beings, light and the weather impress their mark on the digital memory and leave to Ahae’s sensitivity the task of selecting and translating them into a visual narrative as the pure expression of nature which “paints” its own self-portrait.

It is with this spirit that I think we must approach the interpretation of Ahae’s photography project. An invitation to recognize in these images presented to the public in elegant prints created using a range of techniques in b&w and color, the universal worth of nature and its range of forms and manifestations. But also to recognize the artist’s heartfelt appeal for a real commitment from today’s society to preserve the magnificent power of nature to the full.

January 2012

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