Introduction to “We Others”
“In recent years, the end of love has been announced many times. Love, as the claim goes, is foundering because of endless freedom of choice, the overabundance of options, and the compulsion for perfection. In a world of unlimited possibilities, love itself represents and impossibility, […] The crisis of love does not derive from too many others so much as from the erosion of the Other. This erosion is occurring in all spheres of life; its corollary is the mounting narcissification of the Self. In fact, the vanishing of the Other is a dramatic process – even though, fatefully enough, it largely escapes notice.”
Byung-Chul Han, The Agony of Eros
The portraits in this series – We Others – arose from an inner artistic necessity: I wished to attempt to make “humanist” photography, in the vein of Sartre’s existentialist humanism. As he put it, to discover one’s self, to become aware of the cogito, precedes a discovery of all others, as a condition of one’s own existence. We are all separate, other, but collected and unified by our otherness. This is the primary and most essential feature of our existence in relation to each other: “We Others”. (This title, it should be noted, is borrowed from the writer Jean-Luc Nancy’s essay on photography Nous Autres – the rough translation being “we others”.) The work, however, is not intended to simply highlight this feature of existence. No, for as Byung-Chul Han describes in the above quote, contemporary society is afflicted by an illness, an erosion of the other; what he later called “the inferno of the same”. We live in an anti-humanist, anti-existentialist society: a flattening of individual experience into digital sameness. Image-culture is key to this erosion: think of the disposable faces of social media. We are conditioned to view faces, photographs, almost pornographically. The aim of this work is to provide a counterpoint to this erosion: to present a different experience of the photographed face than what we see every day. The subjects are perpetually present, static, and Other. In other words, they are individual, and through them, despite their unreal scale, one could be reminded of that Sartrian condition of existence, that we are all together in our Otherness, that we can all experience the dizziness of our separate existences.