Image and Dust by Mary Dondero

Photography, perfectly capable of recording how things look, yet I always find myself more interested in the contradictions that photographs present. Photographic images always seem to filter out some information regarding the photographed event, or they seem to conceal segments of stories. Camera-pictures can easily misrepresent or omit the defining truth about any person or event. These images will always be a photographer's edited version or slice of the whole. In this way photographs become unconnected from reality. It may be this disconnection that allows the viewer to become indifferent to the evidence provided by the picture.

My goal in this project is to omit the viewer's privileged, objective point of view, the position that leaves room for indifference. For me this means eliminating the separation between the observer and what is being observed. In this project photo-images are covered with a layer of dust. The viewer is compelled with desire to wipe away the dust revealing the image, leaving the hand dirty. In turn, dust on the hand becomes a metaphor implying that the viewer in some way had involvement to the photographed event, possibly remote or distant; but by being part of the human family the involvement exists. For this project I have chosen to appropriate images of Khmer-Rouge prisoners. When the viewer wipes away the dust a mug shot is revealed. I chose these images because they were originally created for the purpose of pure documentation and evidence. Now I aim to use them as part of my artistic expression meant to allow contemplation, and to point out human emotion, and tragedy through imagery originally meant to serve as proof.

It was Roland Barthes idea, that the author or artist is not the sole determinant of meaning to their work. Barthes is actually referring to written text or prose, claiming that the meaning of the text lies not in its source, but in its destination. In some way this encourages to create work that engages the viewer physically securing a memory.

*This work has a special mounting system that I have devised allowing the work to be hung without having to handle the dusted pictures.

Mary Dondero is an Assistant Professor of Art at Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, MA.