The relationship between seeing and invisibility

In a few weeks I’m going to be presenting a paper at the International Visual Sociology Association annual conference in Vancouver, BC. My paper will be a general discussion of the value of invisibility in visual research.

The main argument I’m going to make, and I’m putting it here as a placeholder to remind myself, is that invisibility is the context that gives shape to the visible. It is not the absence of the visible, but the ground upon which it depends – both within and beyond sight.

If photography captures a representation of the visible, the visible captures a representation of the invisible. Each is bounded by rules and is governed by relational considerations and neither can work without its parent figure – photography > visibility; visibility > invisibility. It sounded clearer when I was half asleep last night and will be much more polished by the time I’m ready to present, promise. What the visible is to photography, invisibility is to the visible.