In the Gallery: Otherness

Photos and text by Kevin Jones



When I was in my twenties I took several quarter-long photography classes. They were all taught by the same professor who, when discussing the work of various well-known photographers, frequently referred to a quality he termed “otherness,” when describing it.

It took me a few years and a break from photography to fully understand what he meant when he talked about “otherness.” At this late date I don’t remember exactly what inspired me to abandon photography and take up drawing, but in retrospect it was a good move because after several years of semi-successful striving, I discovered that I not only could cobble out a reasonable hand-drawn likeness if I put my mind to it, but that I’d learned to see in new ways. When I eventually got back to photography I found that I understood better what “otherness” meant, and that I could suddenly appreciate the work of photographers like Lee Friedlander, whose work I had earlier found baffling. As an additional bonus, my powers of mental visualization had become enhanced, which has been an asset when designing exhibits for Mindport.

“Otherness,” then, refers to a quality of photographs in which the meaning of the image is something other or larger than the physical scene actually represented: a visual metaphor, or perhaps a feeling not
reducible to verbal language.

This assortment of photos represent my idea of “otherness.” They are images that refer to something beyond their mundane subject matter, some feeling or idea that is verbally intractable. Like dreams, they may be interpreted in different ways by different people. The question is, what do they evoke for you?

“Otherness” shows in Mindport’s gallery through December.