Source #102

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THE UNSAYABLE - Beyond Words


Anyone who has studied photography at a university in the last 30 years will be familiar with the idea of considering images as texts. But sometimes words are insufficient. This could be for pragmatic reasons - you don’t have a language in common - or it could be that some things are not easily put into words but can be put into pictures.


It is easy to assume that words can be reduced to their meanings while pictures, whose meaning is elusive, cannot. Translators are a conduit for other people’s communication. But while a speaker’s whole meaning may be conveyed to their listener, the translator they pass through is also affected by the words, even though they are not their own. Theatre director Sophie Besse and photographer Jose Farinha worked with a group of translators employed in the public system (with the police, in prisons and hospitals) to create images to show this effect. In a collaborative process they ‘sculpted’ tableaux that dramatised their often difficult experiences. The resulting photographs show feelings that cannot be put into words.