The Cradle of Fog
A Voyage to the Land of Disappearing Where Images Disappear Images
Seeing as the subject here is a residency, let’s erase its walls—walls erected between the territories of Québec and Scotland. Let’s transform them into bridges and anchor points, promises of exploration, promises of connection within another image.
I don’t intend to describe here the actions and ways of seeing proposed by Bertrand Carrière, Mat Hay, Melanie Letoré, and Josée Pedneault; doing so would run the risk of reducing the residency to the four walls that contain it. Rather, I aim to leave the creative process open, to focus on the invisible, so that each image might open up time and space, might make way for a new room, a room to explore and stay in for a while, as guests invited to navigate through the fog.
Having two homes / Avoir deux “chez-soi”
He hadn’t told anyone about his fear of flying over the ocean. He didn’t know what to pack—something light, so the plane wouldn’t be too heavy, so it wouldn’t crash. He wanted to rid his eyes and actions of their usual habits, of everything from his part of the world. He decided to buy a toothbrush on this side of the ocean. In the mirror, on this other side of another morning, his entire way of seeing would be changed. He would perceive everything differently, even his toothbrush and toothpaste.
All the same, after packing some clothes and a raincoat, he made his escape. From his mirror, from his apartment, from his room, from the darkroom, from the wind slamming the door abruptly behind him.
The first image to share is simply the view . . . taken on the first morning of the residency.
He arrives with the morning fog. After the air conditioning of the plane, it tastes salty, like the sea. “Conditional air,” he thinks, opening mouth and nostrils wide, inhaling a lungful of it in one deep, reconditioned breath.
“I’d like to capture this breath.” He knows this goal to be impossible, and promises to photograph the fog every morning, to bring it into contact with his lens, to introduce them to each other like morning-after strangers waking up to pronounce each other’s names for the first time. Later, the fog begins to disperse, revealing the outline of surrounding buildings in vertical stutters, to the rhythm of the passing trains.
On entering his room, his gaze falls on the empty table against the wall. A promise of photographs appears in his mind’s eye, photographs cut into time-based stencils, prisons of moments now left to drift, compassless. Jet lag has gotten the better of his sense of time.
This morning, for a few minutes,
I couldn’t see the mountains north-east of Québec from my window.
Every morning, the fog comes to visit. For their daily meeting, he offers it a makeshift tarp and a bit of window. Pressing his lens up against it, both demanding and timid, self-effacing and acquiescent. Here, he has found a routine that truly destabilizes him, a viewpoint from which his subject will never seem the same. He sometimes thinks of the light on the other side of the Atlantic, and everything he has been taught: the settings, the strong eye, the footsteps in the studio, the anxiety of development. Here, his eye never rests, a wanderer in the all-consuming mist, a constant witness, out of the frame and overexposed to what he observes. He listens, unable to distinguish every word, circumnavigate every space, plot out every street, point to every horizon. Sometimes, it’s enough to make his head spin.
Most of the time, I don’t feel the need to be truthful in regard to the image, its date, place, context, or even its natural colours.
The sky hasn’t shown its face today. It has crushed the earth down flat, and has to watch its step and try not to damage it. His camera feels like a foreign body in a grafted-on country.
I have to get rid of every trace of exoticism, and just keep those images that are enigmatic. Only then can I draw the project in closer to myself.
The table is inhabited, the rectangular images gathered on its surface threading themselves into a pearl necklace, into piles, into busy mounds of time and place, leaving walls behind. His gaze finalizes the four corners, then wanders to the window. Through it, he can make out the fog, the fog that lives in the night. He packs up the table’s contents, his eye encircling each image. He thinks of his first breath of fog, and the mechanics of time. The table watches him, the vise of time becoming photographic, tracing out the borders of a named country onto a nameless map, a country whose street names make the tongue twist and turn.
To board again, the images must be imprisoned. Along the edges, out of the frame, times lives on: the time of the other, backwards and counterclockwise, marching through the mist, from the other side of the world. Every day, he had followed it through the streets, like one follows a stranger’s silhouette. And then, in the wee hours, they would meet again, like accomplices whose names can only be whispered.
Claire Moeder, August 2018
 Melanie Letoré, Week 2—Back in Geneva, Photodialogues blog, August 29, 2017
 Mat Hay, Bonjour Québec!, Photodialogues blog, April 6, 2018
 Melanie Letoré, Québec Day 24, Photodialogues blog, October 23, 2017
 Josée Pedneault, Day 10—Photo vérité, Photodialogues blog, August 22, 2017
 Bertrand Carrière, Et à la fin . . . , Photodialogues blog, June 30, 2018