The seeming transparency of photographic images has always been a somewhat dubious achievement, insofar as it is too often understood as the limit that defines the medium – rather than a point of departure for what would ideally be a kind of visceral sympathy between the observer and the observed. Indeed, the most of whatever reality an image can make tangible must be located there because photography is not just concerned with the superficial play of appearances; it can also – and, perhaps more importantly, should – register affective intensities, tracing the extension of human feeling restlessly outward.
Such ambiguity is fundamental to the work of Marcus Haydock, who has fashioned a far-ranging dialogue from the broken surfaces that surround us, threaded through with a seam of fine autobiographical detail. But these encounters still have a suggestive incompleteness; in Haydock’s world what we see is revealed as somehow being always both more and less than the sum of its parts. He offers a synthesis of those disjointed impressions that flow along the margins of conscious thought, so that we might, however imperfectly, occupy the gaze of another person. This same quality of sustained attention brings together all those charged moments of insight, however fragmented they may appear. In that way, Haydock achieves a satisfying narrative density at odds with the seeming disparity of his themes.
A close scrutiny of what might otherwise be thought of as unremarkable reveals the capacity of photography itself to interrogate the conditions of awareness, even to create new modes of perception unlike those that are ordinarily known. Those connections are what activate the particular values of each image; there is an enigmatic clarity to how they relate as elements in a narrative that is left, for the most part, tellingly unresolved. Haydock’s attention is fluid and yet specific, contradictory to the visible and faithful to that contradiction, to evasions or elisions of presence. These pictures endure a measure of almost pleasurable uncertainty about how we might locate ourselves. He is not so much concerned with what is merely seen as with the cryptic spaces of seeing itself, revealed here as having, at best, a wholly conditional logic.
Being so precisely balanced between metaphor and description, these pictures have a raw energy that undermines their essential nature as fiction. That tension is a key strategy for Haydock, playing the apparent visibility of his subject matter against its rendering as an element in a personal drama, where meaning is necessarily a flux of discontinuous sensations, always in motion. The sum of this difference between what is seen and the fact that it must always be understood through the filter of an essentially private experience remains central to Haydock’s work. Its effect is to show how little of the world we can know at any given moment, or rather, to insist that we are forever positioned at the edge of what can be known from within the limitations of our necessarily finite perspective; this is a reality haunted by absence.
Written by Darren Campion / Edited by Steve Messer / Published 21 October 2013