European Diary

Kierkegaard and the Camera

On a balmy spring day, a visitor to St. Mark’s in Venice, if he is adventurous enough to make his way to the top of the cathedral and look down, will see the subjacent piazza covered in a species of vermin.  Excoriating the global tourist is almost as banal a pastime as trailing through an Italian city in shorts and trainers behind a colored umbrella, and I scarcely wish to follow suit.  I merely want to draw the reader’s attention to the specific morphology of the creature, which bears an uncanny resemblance to an insect mentioned in the Apocalypse, the locust with a human head.  This disinterested insight, part entomology and part eschatology, has led my Russian photographer friend Alexander Gusov to give the title Locusts to a vast portfolio of images devoted to the emergence of mass man in the nominally individualistic West.

Photography, as it happens, is the mobilizing impulse of the species under discussion.  One can hardly imagine a locust swarm without at least one camera for each family subunit, and their progress through the world is a geometric series of voracious juxtapositions of landscapes, monuments, and backgrounds with their own likenesses, a kaleidoscopic process involving trillions of eventual permutations yet immovably focused on the self.  Like a plague, their progress is expansionist and triumphal, arithmetically burgeoning on its advances, swelling with each pandemic...

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