The Seer & The Seen ( Images | Introduction | Print Sales )

Most of these photographs are concerned with an exploration of that heightened and intensified scrutiny we sometimes bring to bear when looking, for example, at paintings in a gallery or in a book of reproductions. I am continually drawn to late mediaeval Flemish painting with its supreme technical facility, brought about by the introduction of oil painting. Jan Van Eyck, in particular, exploited the new medium in his pursuit of that intense naturalism which Norman Bryson has termed "a surplus of appearance".

That sustained, concentrated gaze is what continues to fascinate me: in painting the world and its objects with an unswerving attention to every detail, looking becomes a kind of celebration, a type of meditation on sight and seeing.

In certain portraits that gaze is returned with haunting fixity. This loop of looking is an area to which I return again and again. I have often torn or burned or recombined such images to test the impurtability of that look. Sometimes I have reframed images so that they suggest a reflection in a mirror. Rupert Sheldrake, in his new book "Seven Experiments That Could Change The World", discusses the familiar, but nonetheless unnerving phenomenon of sensing that one is being stared at - and then turning to find that, indeed, this is the case. That uncanny moment haunts us, whether or not we rationalise the sensation. I am seeking, through photography, to explore such moments of visual and emotional intensification.

Nineteenth-century research into the faculty of human sight by Helmholtz and others suggested that looking at the world involved a subjective inference radically different from the transparency of mechanical models of vision proposed by Kepler and his followers. The degree to which we "read into" the world is beyond objective assessment, but the incidence of simulacra - the appearance of spurious images such as faces in clouds - provide convincing instances to remind us of the subjectivity of the gaze. My visual palindromes in the series "The Vampire's Reflection" resemble the Rorschach Test in this respect: the symmetry and vestigial image act as a point of departure for our "inferential" vision. The actual technique of placing a mirror onto photographic portraits was invented by the anarchist, Leo Malet in the 1930's.

Making photographs, for me, is a process of distillation and contemplation, governed finally by intuition, immensely slow, a kind of negation of the instantaneous and impartial vision, which I once thought to be the essential characteristics of photographic vision.

Paul Kilsby