22 July 2008

They say I'm a dreamer...

Why am I showing you this picture?

Not out of vanity (well, at least, I don't think so). I'm prompted by comments on the image made over the past month, brought back to the surface when I read JSBlog's piece on trains in literature this evening.

The image was on show from 21st June to 12th July, as part of an exhibition. Over that time, it was picked up and reproduced in the press to a greater extent than any other in the show; it was also far and away the favourite of visitors to the show itself.

I began with the assumption that this was to do with the vanishing perspectives of the railway lines representing lines of sight into the unknown, reinforced by the direction of the child's unseen gaze. That the structure of the stormy sky imbued this unknown with an added dimension of uncertainty. That the range of tonalities gave sensual pleasure to the viewer. That the light on the rails held the eye. That railways represent travel and far horizons. Far away places evoked by the whistle of a train. And so on, and so on, and so forth.

But ... not so. Visitor after visitor talked instead about the thrill of fear triggered by sight of a child on a railway line. In reality, camera and child were on a level crossing; for most people, apparently, the fact that this is not visible turns what I believed to be an expression of opportunity into an alarm bell.

Just goes to show ... the author is not only dead but has no control at all over what his signifiers get up to once released into the world.

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