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Nathan Lyons | "Comment" in Under the Sun: The Abstract Art of Camera Vision, 1960


The essential property of an image is that it is the fusion of intellect and emotion into a single reality. Intellect, as an isolated consideration, with an unrelated concern for the interaction of our senses, represents a brittle human state. The weight of too much thought has a way of disturbing, not only the balance of the individual, but any concurrent objectification. A similar condition may arise as the result of disassociated physical concerns. I do not think that it is a question of man’s frustration in terms of “absolutes,” but rather, what is important, is the degree of significance in his “point of departure.” Degree is the condition of time past, present, and future. It is also the condition of man. What it is that we “understand” is not a question of original idea, but discover. Understanding exists, it must be found. Once recognized (always in terms of degree), its primary characteristics can be recorded. The generative property inherent within interacting moments of understanding is the imaginative literature of the mind. The affirmation of imaginative association is the expression of Art. Art is an expression of knowledge.

In the literature of the mind, imagination can become just a word. The presence and structure of imaginative relationship is only the occurrence of a point-of-entry for experience. There must be an active juxtaposition of mind and the physical world to affirm, challenge, or refute what is taken to be understanding. By sifting feelings through the strainer of intellect we may grow to understand the thought of significant experience which remains. I believe in the knowledge that my senses supply my being and therefore, the virtual states inherent in the photographic situation enrich and challenge my understanding of life.

Photography is, when used with regard for its inherent directness, a unique and exacting means of isolating inner realities found in correspondence with the physical world. This is an important distinction; for the employment of camera vision to an area which is commonly labeled “unidentifiable” of “abstract” is a misnomer. All photography which reveals existing states of matter is the result of abstraction. The essence or effect of a subject-matter-situation is transferred to a two-dimensional surface. It is not the “thing in itself” recorded but a fixed representation of it. Unidentifiable as the “subject matter” may seem, in terms of “real” associations, it does exist in the context of the physical world. It is here that it has been discovered, felt, and recorded. The photographic process not only records preoccupation in the exercise of plastic or creative sensibility, but the photograph may become an awakener of our sensibilities.

The visual experiences which I have included in this edition, are in no way fictitious. They are affirmations of imaginative preoccupation. In a world composed of images, they point to the significance of vision as a primary sense of selective observation. The correlations between the camera and the functions of the eye have been repeatedly alluded to, but primarily in terms of mechanistic functions. There is however, another area for consideration: the eye and the camera see more than the mind knows.

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