30 March 2020 – 20:29 GMT – 7°C Mostly Cloudy – Co. Dublin, Ireland
You’ve met our dog Gus in a previous post. He suffers from separation anxieties yet still looks to the bright side of life. He does so without the concept of zero, suffering no anxiety for its absence. Now, I only have one olfactory bulb. I know I lose more by my limitations than does Gus for his.
Dog bowls don’t need zeroes. Empty. Full. Is. Isn’t. Now. Later. Happy. Sad.
I don’t have a great sense of smell. That is, my one olfactory bulb cannot be relied upon. Some days it works better than others. And while some smells are more detectable than others, sometimes even the most detectable are very hard to make out. I’m not amnosic but my perception of smell is definitely getting worse as I age. Ditto taste.
Photographs don’t portray odours. The paper or ink or chemicals may smell but smell is not conveyed by a picture. Heat. Cold. Wet. Dry. Pain. Tranquility. Order. Chaos. Geography. Moments. All can be portrayed. But not scent. Nor perfume. Which rules out using photography for taste too. You can’t say a picture is lemony when referring to scent.
With a camera in hand, we can do other remarkable things: freeze water, remove waves, image stars and see the hairs on larvae. As well as create memories that we couldn’t have without a photograph. And we generally curate the happiest of events. Bias is an intrinsic quality of the photography. Only rarely do we photograph unpleasant events, and that seems to be related to the social media phenomenon of sharing our experiences, when we forget that we have a duty of care to those whose catastrophic experience we instantly use to document our existence, published as our experience. Or funerals, the confirmation that existence is ephemeral. Such documentary counterpoint is left to the photojournalists. And if you’re vaguely like me, you probably regularly attend exhibitions of photographs that tell stories you’d never wish to preserve in a family album.
Attached is an iPhone photograph I took a few years ago on a willow in our garden. An aphid extrudes from its cornicle. Hairs on larvae from a phone. Remarkable technology.
Nothing is the core of existentialism. Without zero there is no beginning. No now. Perhaps existentialism is beyond the need of dogs.