The fourth edition of the international Fotograf Festival, this time with the motto “Seeing is Believing”, is providing an impetus for contemplation regarding the ways in which the technical image relates to reality, the authenticity of the medium of photography, and the relationship of human consciousness to the technocratic inventions and contraptions of science. The main theme is the imaginary space behind the looking glass, addressing phenomena which exist on the border of scientific comprehension and beyond.

The discussion forum focuses on photography’s ability to reveal what remains hidden and to capture a sense of the unreal—where photography, whose surface seems to refract everyday reality, opens up into other, more illusory worlds. As Walter Benjamin wrote, “It is through the camera that we first discover the optical unconscious, just as we discover the instinctual unconscious through psychoanalysis.” André Bazin in turn defined photography as a “sensory hallucination.”

What myths have become attached to photography throughout its history? How does photography relate to the occult? Can photography be used as proof of the existence of paranormal phenomena? How does one differentiate between images captured by photography, reflected in the retina of the human eye, and reality? Can photography offer a glimpse into the human soul? Or is photography simply a virtual copy of a non-existent original? These are a few of the questions that the forum will address in its 2014 edition, continuing the discussion of previous years regarding the possibilities of photography.

Margaret Iversen is Professor in the School of Philosophy and Art History at the University of Essex. Her books include Alois Riegl: Art History and Theory, Beyond Pleasure: Freud, Lacan and Barthes, Writing Art History (with Stephen Melville) and Chance. She recently co-edited with Diarmuid Costello special issues of journals: “Photography after Conceptual Art” for Art History and “Agency and Automatism” for Critical Inquiry. A book called Photography, Trace and Trauma is forthcoming.

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