This series re-stages with contemporary means the photographic conditions of the first portraits of the 19th century, namely a long exposure time, in the order of minutes, during which the sitter is required to stay completely still. As Walter Benjamin posits in A Little History of Photography, those auratic first images - in which individuals appear self-contained, self-absorbed, undisturbed by the presence of the camera - result from a convergence between technology and social/historical context. Photography had not yet become a social practice of self-presentation or an industry and so people did not know how to pose. Moreover, their historical moment was just before the incipient industrial revolution spawned into the massive economic and social transformations that seem to have reached their limit in our present time. Benjamin tells us that most individuals appearing in the first photographs were members of a rising class still innocent of the imperialist degeneration to come and facing a future rife with possibility.
Contemporary sitters are well-accustomed to the photographic pose and all-aware of its social implications, as exemplified by casual family pictures, commissioned CV photographs, selfies or tourist pictures in which one puts up a camera-ready face. However the self-presentational pose becomes impossible when confronted with the prospect of being still for a number of minutes. Like the early sitters discussed by Benjamin, the long exposure time prompts the individuals photographed by me to live through the duration. Their continuously recorded presence takes the form of intense concentration, struggling to stay in the moment, clinging onto the flowing time, rather than simply existing in front of the camera. The deadpan frontal pose is subtly transformed into expressions of uneasiness fitting the social and political context that we are facing today. The devastating effects of rampant capitalist development are beginning to close in on us. Our time is one of uneasy waiting, defined by a gradual failure of the old ways of organizing complex societies and the absence of new forms of economy and government that would prevent the environmental changes threatening to make the world uninhabitable in a not too distant future. The future seems spent.