In her polemic On Photography, Susan Sontag argued that the proliferation of images in the modern era fostered a passive “chronic voyeuristic relation” to the world around us. As a diagnostic radiologist, I spent my workdays interpreting “photographs” of the human interior. Each study was approached as a puzzle with a potential solution, and each analysis was a quest for certainty. Through concise language in a written report, I sought to minimize ambiguity. The images were presumed to hold meaning for the patient and their physician, and often that meaning resulted in intervention on the patient’s behalf. In this narrow sense, at least, Sontag was wrong.
In time I came to recognize that an unspoken aesthetic appreciation of diagnostic images was deeply entwined with the rigor of anatomic analysis, logic, and problem solving. But I grew interested in a different relationship with photography, one that separated an immediate emotional response from vigilant interpretation. I acquired a camera and began to explore the world beyond the darkened radiology reading room. The still camera became my modality of choice for affective diagnostic imaging. In the process, I found respite in feeling rather than thinking.
The uneasy coexistence between human populations and the natural world interests me as a photographer. I am intrigued by transition and impermanence, and favor material that leaves an inchoate emotional residue-that haunting suspicion that we may have forgotten something important in our inattention to the sensual realm. I suppose most of my photographs are mementos mori (although I’ve come to think of them as melancholigraphs).
Web address: https://agrons
At a Distance: Philadelphia in the Time of Covid-19
Archival monochrome pigment prints of original photographs
All images © Geoffrey Ansel Agrons
An Edge of Humanity Magazine Project
CURATOR | Joelcy Kay