Matthew (You were there in front of me)


I have been doing a photographic project “You were there in front of me”, in which I photograph people, most of whom strangers, men, whom I met online, on the other side of the screen, while interacting via skype. I have done many shoots but increasingly felt the project failing. The images lacked some sort of an essence of the photographed or the relationship that took place during the shoot. The sitters were gone, really gone, once we said goodbye and close the skype window, as if they never existed. Nobody seemed real, and it really felt artificial.

I photographed Matthew back in June and the shooting session was quick. I felt really awkward, because he was rather quiet. The photographs were ok, but didn’t satisfy me. I emailed the photos to him and he said they made him smile. That was it, I thought.

Then he popped up again, started talking to me on skype quite casually. I found it strange at first but our relationship started there and continued. He was in London, I was in Tokyo. We talked. I am not talkative, so often we fell silent, but we continued our little chat sessions. And I kept photographing him.This was the first time that I felt something palpable taking shape out of this project.

Looking back at the images of him, I found that there were a few things that caught my attention, some things that I never really paid attention to, or some things that are irrelevant to him or his personality. They took hold of me, speaking truthfully about him, like Barthes’ Punctum in Camera Lucida, “that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)”. They are still part of images that are produced virtually and remain artificial, yet they represent him for me, and these things holds the images together. It felt like things caught on a net, on a web. Not a trap but an inviting structure that held me yet doesn’t blind me, gave me images that are truer than falsely photographs. Thin and fragile, yet more substantial than photographs, they softly catch me and remind me of his actual presence. The presence I never really felt physically.

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