Where do images come from?
Detours around Ted Serios’s “thoughtographic” photographs
Editor: Marjaana Kella
Book design: Petri Summanen
“He writes like the dead, said one of W. G. Sebald’s students of creative writing, I read. Indeed, I recognize, there is a
strange unworldly atmosphere in Sebald’s books.
He writes about a trauma he actually did not have – others had
it, and he stole it. He writes about the Holocaust from the perspective
of the collectively guilty, as one and every European floating in
time, using long and complicated sentences which he calls “periscopic,” where
the narrator is always one or two steps away (he
perhaps said, I might have read somewhere).
He uses photographs in the same manner. The photographs, placed here and there in the text like punctuation, are uncaptioned and fascinatingly reticent about their
particular subjects. Yet they seem to anchor his
writing in individuals having- been-there and appear to dig into
historical specificities in amazing detail just because they are
photographs. Then, after extensive research into his interviews and other
stories, it turns out that the photographs may as well be undated,
unidentified flea market treasures. The image on the cover of
Austerlitz, printed in tens of thousands of copies, looked at again and
again, is not of an actual Holocaust child victim or any real
historical person who inspired Sebald in creating the character Jacques
Austerlitz. The image is of a random English child in a masquerade.
So why use photographs, then, he asked. What do they
For this essay book, I published my first-ever literary endeavour written in English. The piece is titled “Seven Exercises” after Raymond Queneau, and the exercises are “Queneau’s Notation”, “All Fairy Tales are of One Type in Regard to their Structure”, “Deus ex Machina”, “The Image Bank”, “Sebald”, “The Documentary Project”, and “Epilogue/Eugolipe”. In my exercises, I elaborate on the idea of telling a true story of the evolving of certain documents – photographs – in different ways. What actually happened in Ted Serios’s mind and how that produced images, no one yet knows.
My thanks to Laura Jones-Katz for the thoughtful proofreading. The book is available online: https://taju.uniarts.fi/handle/10024/7652