I recently reread a short story by one of my all time favourite authors, Italo Calvino. The story, from his collection ‘Difficult Loves’, is called ‘The adventure of a photographer’ and it triggered a thought about the importance – or otherwise – of obsession and art; more precisely, about its relationship with photography.
The Calvino Story
In the Calvino story, the protagonist, Antonino Paraggi, is a bachelor who initially scorns photography and to an extent, relationships. Yet ultimately he becomes so consumed with capturing life through photographs that he hurtles towards obsession if not virtual insanity. Along the way he alienates the girl who apparently loves him, photographs her every waking – and sleeping – moment, often without her knowledge or consent. When she inevitably leaves him, Paraggi captures images of where she was or would be in the apartment they shared. He then decides to tear up photos of the girl and photographs the fragments against a background of newspaper reportage images. Finally:
“…Antonino realized that photographing photographs was the only course he had left, or rather, the true course he had obscurely sought all this time.”