Sleeping in Dark Rooms and Caves
Ultimately -or at the limit- in order to see a photograph well,
it is best to look away or close your eyes.
''We photograph things in order to drive them out of our
minds. My stories are a way of shutting my eyes."  Roland Barthes quoting Kafka
Within the darkroom our eyes are half-open and sight is other,
intensified, as we animate, project and enlarge the images we are
trying both to remember and forget. The inverted, immaterial image
of the lover is more precise, more alive and accurate than flesh,
and so we breathe in and touch our insubstantial ghosts within this
dream space of awakening.
Inherent to the photographic, as to desire and love, is the
paradox and impossibility of grasping a body, the quest to close
this gap between oneself and the other/image, and the inevitable
distance, which always remains. As much as the photograph is a
question of this body, it is also a moment of violence, of wanting
to possess that which is always beyond reach. Momentarily
photography delivers the perhaps universal and timeless desire to
become one with another, sought within the lovers' embrace. I fall into the
image, into the projected, miniature crystalline glow of
the body I will lose. The apparatus makes this possible, makes
loving pictures and picturing love a vertiginous extended moment of
absolute proximity and distance at once.
In Francois Ozon's short film of love and death,
La Petite Mort , the darkroom
occupies this space of possibility and re-finding, a parallel
world of escape and discovery. The main protagonist, Paul, is a
photographer who narcissistically and compulsively photographs
himself and his lovers in a state of orgasm. After being coerced by
his sister to visit his estranged dying father, only to not be
recognized by him, Paul returns home enraged and frenetically
develops and prints his most recent images. Fragmented heads thrown
back in ecstasy, contorted faces verging on pain, emerge on the
blank photographic paper. Leaving the makeshift tomb of his
darkroom he enters the light of day in his apartment; bedroom,
darkroom and studio become one space. We then follow Paul as he
returns alone to the hospital at dusk, camera in hand, and
surreptitiously photographs his sleeping father's naked body in
fragmented detail. Once again, within the liquid space of night,
Paul prints these violently taken images, only to see his father's
face emerge with eyes wide open looking directly back at his son.
Later, unable to sleep, Paul returns to the darkroom and with a
scalpel, removes his father's eyes. Holding up the photographic
mask, his own eyes merge with his father's face, as he stares back
at this altered self in the cloaked red mirror of the darkroom.
The obsolescent darkroom, this crypt of spectral inversion,
this womb of night only comes alive when the lights of the world
are switched off, the red lamps activated, noxious chemistry poured
into lapping basins. Like the sleeper who sees the eclipse itself,
"not the fiery ring around it, but the perfectly dark heart of the
eclipse of being,"  so the darkroom offers a different way of
seeing, offering a slice of reality best viewed cautiously, lids
half closed, as one might view the
Esther Teichmann 2012 (Foam Magazine
 Roland Barthes. Camera Lucida-Reflections on Photography.
Translated by Richard Howard. London: Vintage, 1993 (1980), p.
 Francois Ozon, La Petite Mort, short film, 20 mins, 1997
 Jean-Luc Nancy. The Fall of Sleep. Translated by Charlotte
Mandell. New York: Fordham University Press, 2009, p. 8.