The “hidden harmony” was an intuition of Heraclitus, one of the most major thinkers of Ancient Greece, who lived between 500 and 400 B.C. Heraclitus believed that there was a First Principle or Origin from which everything in existence began, and that everything is regulated by an eternal law, the logos. However, Heraclitus affirmed that the Origin loves to hide herself, which means that she appears in things and can be “seen”, not through thinking or reflection, but rather only through total and confident abandonment to the flow of life.
One of the essential elements of the photographer is his ability to document and so the question is: can photography demonstrate the existence of the hidden harmony? And if so, why take photos of it?
Today, photography has become extremely popular because all men can relate to a photo. Photos are also necessary to many other works men carry out and can even be a healing to some. Photography is the language that allows for universal communication because it doesn’t need any translation and thanks to the modern technologies can be shared in an instant from anywhere in the world with an easy click. This fact means photography can be either extremely trivial or of powerful use.
At the beginning of the last century, Edward Weston (even if he started from other points of view) said: “The old ideals collapse on all sides and the precise intransigent vision of the camera is already, and will be more and more, a world force for the revaluation of life”. László Moholy-Nagy, Hungarian painter and a clear representative of the Bauhaus’s photography said that: “not he who ignores the alphabet, but he who ignores photography will be the unlettered of the future”.
According to the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, we all experienced, at the beginning of the last century, a huge turn about the art when mechanic production started to spread art’s objects without unicity. And is right here in photography that art starts to lose her sacral dimension of hic et Nunc (here and now). But Benjamin didn’t reject the idea that even with the great possibility of spread of art, this could be educational.
Konrad Fielder, art scholar and theoretic during the 1800s, thought of the theory of pure visibility and affirmed that art has not an aesthetic or symbolic goal, but that her value depends on the language used by the knowledge.
At the same time, we can see the pictorial language revolution made by the European figurative avant-garde of the 1900s when colours, geometric symbols and the forms started to be used to express another message apart from reality. Essentially, the abstract Mondrian, was looking for Truth and trying to represent absolute harmony using only orthogonal lines and primary colours.
According to Mondrian, recognizing harmony means that this manifestation of Unity is inside us and that our conscience is part of Universal conscience that is Unity. Another abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky wrote that “The real artwork is the language that speaks to the soul of things that are important for the soul”. Both were stimulated and convinced by the idea that their research would contribute to human spiritual progress.
Can the photographer search for harmony existing in reality in continuous becoming, and then photograph it rather painting it on the canvas like the painter does? The starting point is to consider photography for what it is, that is as a two-dimensional plane as Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Kazimir Malevich done, which on the plane of the canvas had the point, the line, the colour, the shape, not to represent something real, but as autonomous signs linked together to express an immaterial message. In this way, the photographer of hidden harmony will walk observing the surrounding, paying more attention not to the phenomenon but to the position, the geometries, the dimensions, the colours and to the value of things. He must have the ability to imagine the balanced relationship of all the parts he intends to photograph, eliminating part of the scene with the outline of what he intends to film. The view in the viewfinder of the camera will allow you to confirm, refine or deny the harmonic validity of what has been identified. The three-dimensional reality in which we move is therefore elaborated by the mind that doesn’t look at objects in their phenomenon but in the linguistic elements that constitute them. And since the photograph of hidden harmony acts to provide a testimony of the presence of harmony into reality, in the processing of the digital file, we will avoid any excess of post-production and deformation that could lead to a result unrelated to what has actually been taken.
The possibility of identifying harmony in reality also depends on the mood of the photographer and not solely on the ability that he has. Often, I walk for long time without being able to take a picture and then suddenly I shoot 4 or 5 interesting photos in just a few minutes. So, I observed that there are times when one enters a sincere empathy with the places crossed, being able to enter a flow that allows us to perceive the most intimate essence. Therefore, it is necessary to empty ourself of our own ego to enter a state of contemplation of the real in the sense of the praxis of Aristotle, without having any other purpose. According to Kant “beauty is a disinterested and free pleasure because in it, approval isn’t imposed by any interest, neither by the senses nor by reason”. This is the playful dimension of art, aware that Truth is unattainable and accepting life as a game. Heraclitus wrote in one of his most famous fragments that “time is like a child playing dice, his kingdom is the kingdom of a child”. It is as if he were saying that time is perfectly regulated by seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, etc. but the events that can happen inside it are completely random. Therefore, the photographer of hidden harmony does not explore, but plays to explore.
The eye that looks for hidden harmony has a playful look, without judgement, that recognizes the multiplicity of diversities and aspires to reveal a harmonic picture that is the result of the tensions and integration of the differences, each one giving to complete the Unity. A system in which the terms are solidarity and the value depends on the simultaneous presence of the others.
When trying to re-educate the eye to the vision of harmonic stays, even in unexpected places, it is possible to re-valuate the things that have “always been under your nose,” to give attention to the simple and essential. The hidden harmony photographer may sometimes renounce a photograph that shows beauty because he believes that the preciousness of a photo comes from the sense of discovery. From the satisfaction, as in a scavenger hunt, to be able to find harmony where it was impossible to find it.
Alfred Stieglitz called Equivalent a series of photos of clouds. The equivalents are photos of something even if the something is becoming inessential. Minor White was the most important continuator of the concept of Equivalence: “If the observer realizes that, for him, what he is looking at is something that he has inside, that the photo reflects something that is inside of him, well he is experiencing a high level of equivalence”. Harmony means being able to agree: The person with what surrounds him, with his similarities, with his intimacy. The aim of taking photos of harmony is to wake up the peaceful and brotherly conscience of a person.
The end goal of taking photos of hidden harmony is PEACE.