An interpretation of Giorgio Caló’s ‘Annunciazione’ (Sprovieri Gallery, W1B)

Caló’s ‘Annunciation’ exhibit emulates a darkroom using red light and is equally as disorientating as the real thing. When my eyes adjusted, I was met with 14 individually framed prints which together pictured a stained-glass window. Each print was made, I was told by the gallery assistant, by simply placing photo-sensitive paper onto the glass and letting the sun do the rest, much like how an enlarger works. This primitive process is one which is almost totally untouched by the photographer and thus it could arguably be the purest form of photography, as Susan Sontag says, “the further back we go in history, the less sharp is the distinction between images and real things” (p. 155, On Photography).

Caló has used a depiction of the Annunciation, an event in Christianity where the angel Gabriel descends upon the virgin Mary and informs her of the conception of Christ. In this particular illustration, the angel does this by pointing to Mary’s womb, but she also carries a lily, a symbol of Mary’s purity but also, a symbol of death. In this way, the glass-work encapsulates Christ’s conception and death in a singular image, a remarkable act in itself.

I must remind the reader that this is existing in red light, mimicking the darkroom, a place where images are conceived. The red light creates a cyclic glitch, time stops. Anyone that’s worked in a darkroom will know that it’s easy to lose track of time there, and in this way, I would argue Caló’s exhibit takes place in limbo. Photographs in the darkroom are in limbo until fixed with chemical. I am interested to know if Caló’s photographs have been fixed, or whether they are latent images, their existence dependent on the red light. Either way, the use of said light would imply the latter regardless. This ephemerality would imply Caló to be drawing parallels between the Annunciation and the technicalities of photography. Life and death existing together at the same time. When something is photographed, it lives and dies within the image. But mostly, it dies – stuck in a moment, like a taxidermy. To quote Sontag once more, “all photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality and vulnerability.” (p.15, On Photography). ‘Memento Mori’ translates to ‘remember (that) you will die’ in Latin.

Pure light is associated with life, it is essential for anything to grow. But as the Bible states, Christ came to earth to save humanity and ultimately die for our sins and thus it is fitting for the annunciation of Christ, his birth and death, to survive here momentarily and dependently in this artificially lit space.