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.

Václav Hájek is a lecturer at the Faculty of Humanities of the Charles University in Prague. In his research he focuses on the relationships of mainstream visual culture and art. He is a prolific author of essays on this subject, which he publishes on his on-line blog called “The Little Theoretician” (www.maly-teoretik.eblog.cz). Some of these essays were compiled in a publication called “How to Discern a Trash Bin”.

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