Each time I travel in India, the first signs of welcome that I perceive are eyes: eyes as objects (their profound blackness; their almond-shaped smiles; their inquisitiveness, so open and round); eyes as vehicles of hospitality, of generosity, of interrogation; eyes that are part of vast landscapes of age and labour, or of soft sceneries of innocence and vulnerability, or an infinite mixture of the traces of what life leaves behind. The gaze of Indians is immediate, as if the truth of their life were contained in the simple act of looking. In the West, eyes are more like masks: they cover, they conceal, they camouflage. In India, a gaze contains a promise, a direct and reciprocal link between the person who is looking and the person who is looked at, between the person who is looked at and the person who is looking.
This game of reciprocity, this coming and going, this simultaneous movement of nearly all our gestures and thoughts, has been one of my main preoccupations as a photographer. The greater part of my previous work was based on reflections, transparencies, the images created by the justaposition of co-existing, multiple realities. In this manner, I tried to unite or reunite contradictory (or sometimes complimentary) forces that play upon one’s emotions at a precise moment in time.
The contradictions and consistencies expressed by the complexity of the graphic narration in my previous work are present in this series in the subject itself. Where once I used glass or mirrors to describe conflicting realities, here the mirrors are the eyes themselves: their inherent capacity of reception is the same that implies reflection. An inevitable tension arises between the passive utilisation of this part of the face, which suggests a specific photographic aesthetic, and the reality of these eyes that are ever so human and reactive.
These photos were conceived to be enlarged to a paper format of 30cm x 40cm, which doubles the size of « reality » and makes the reading of the photos multi-facetted depending on one’s distance from the image: the first reading, from afar, where the subject is objective (eyes, a gaze); the second reading, an arm’s distance away, where the subject blends into a graphic amalgam; and the third reading, very close indeed, where I appear in the pupils as the subject, inseparable from the principal subject of the eyes themselves.
These eyes, these gazes, these portraits – self-portraits, lead the spectator beyond the visual image to the emotions that I felt photographing them. It becomes very difficult to separate what is visible in the image from what took place inside me when I photographed eyes that were looking at me looking at them… (and what happens inside you when you look at these eyes that are looking at you looking at them…).
This is darshan: the moment of grace and perfection, the auspicious moment when a devotee and a deity look into one another’s eyes. This is darshan: an experience of reciprocity, an interaction in presence, a heightening of consciousness.