Pathos, empathy, loss, desire, uncertainty. These are just some of words that can be used to describe Eric Stephanian’s Lucas, a small DIY publication that deploys one single photograph of a boy, his son, taken on the only opportunity its author was given to meet his offspring.
I myself am a product of a displaced father with a similar methodology. What I have to offer about this asingular experience seen through the eyes of Lucas and Stephanian is only a hint of what it means to attempt to find oneself through the experience of paternal loss, photographic empathy, and longing. For Lucas raises a whole host of questions of our perception of coupling, procreation and what children of this loss understand about the cornucopiae of human relations that shepherded them into existence. Not every father leaves, some are forced away.
The one image in question is initially displayed as a closeup of Lucas’ face. It then proceeds in an enforced agenda of pathos to displace the intimacy as each frame zooms out, unfolds into a series of distancing manouevers where the photographic subject (there is only one) recedes. As we start with the close up and as Lucas is diminished page by page, he is also being pulled away from the viewer, kept at bay, pushed back away.
The sense of loss for Stephanian palpitates and creates a very difficult, but profound, use of photography to describe everything and nothing at the same time, for there is no text involved. That background story is incredibly personal and one would lose the context if you did not have insight into the project. This is not a failure, but a perfect representation of the problems we face placing too much context on an image without circumstance. The book’s overall scaling back of superfluous content and DIY/punk zine effect is a breath of fresh air in a genre of publishing consumed with over-materialisation of publication. This is not shiny. It is direct, and refined to promote one idea, which speaks so much more than most of the considerable faff being currently published for the sake of the ‘artist’ and their ego.
All images courtesy of the artist. © Eric Stephanian