Images Do Not Exist

The Swamp, a photobook by Sofia Borges where the act of seeing is empty and abstract.


Image extracted from the book The Swamp by Sofia Borges published by MACK

In a world run by and flooded with images, it seems pretty subversive to state that ''IMAGES DO NOT EXIST'' - how many people would even give this a second thought? But if for one second of your life you would like to exercise this idea further, then you should read, The Swamp, a photobook by the Brazilian artist, Sofia Borges. The book was launched at Photo London where I had the first chance to see it. Sofia also had a fabulous display with some of the images on the wall, which really made my trip worthy.

© Photo London

Image extracted from the book The Swamp by Sofia Borges published by MACK

‘’IMAGES DO NOT EXIST’’ appears written on the book cover, a statement that suggests her work is not about a personal story nor the documentation of a particular event in her life, instead Sofia is trying to understand the existence of a physical world around her. The ideas of resemblance, mimesis, symbol or depiction are often put into question, blurring the lines of reality.

The Swamp is a metaphor to describe the places (geographically but also philosophically speaking) where she has been wondering around for more than seven years. The Swamp of comprehension, of representation, of abstraction. Nowadays, in photography there is a certain trend, your work has to be 'about something'. Even when the ''aboutness'' becomes the only excuse to gather a collection of pictures, often with a pretty lame thinking behind it. As an antidote, Sofia appears to be a refreshing voice with a powerful and well considered body of work, her images seem empty receptacles where we pour our experiences over.

Image extracted from the book The Swamp by Sofia Borges (2016, MACK BOOKS)

Image extracted from the book The Swamp by Sofia Borges published by MACK

It’s unavoidable to link this book with Plato’s ideas in the ‘’The Allegory of the Cave’’ where he reflects on how far people may claim to be enlightened or unenlightened. The Swamp is an open dialogue between the author and her images, as a language to understand the world . Fragments of text suddenly appear steering reader's view into a sea of thoughts. Without the intention of imposing an extra layer over images' surface, Sofia invites us to dive deeper into the things she actually sees.

Solid white, solid white,

Solid Sound,

Absence light as existence

and all things being unequivocally thick.’’


‘’Image is a substance of meaning. Forcibly. Inevitably. Absolutely and without exception.

Objects are a distinguishable nothing.’’

Sofia has been wondering around museums, zoos and study centres where objects are preserved and displayed to help us understand our history, to represent how our ancestors were living, the objects they created and used, the existing fauna and flora… but how much of this is possible? how much of this is a conviction? How much of this is real? Sofia says that the final grasp of that happened not inside museums but by the experience of entering and photographing the walls of the most ancient and prehistoric caves. "Looking at the complex layering of time and of meaning over the drawings and over the forms of those cave led me to better comprehend something related to vision, which is: we cannot signify reality. Something that we have tried forever.’"

Image extracted from the book The Swamp by Sofia Borges (2016, MACK BOOKS)

Image extracted from the book The Swamp by Sofia Borges (2016, MACK BOOKS)

Image extracted from the book The Swamp by Sofia Borges published by MACK

Sofia's world is conformed by a fascinating series of images, from figurative forms to abstraction, from documentation to experimentation. Museum objects, portraits, illustrations, rocks, fake rocks, paintings, animals representing animals, collages or even images of her studio are sequenced, suggesting her ideas are driven by instincts, human instincts. There is a moment when ‘what you look at’ is not important anymore and it is the ‘How you look at’’ it that matters. She uses a variety of visual strategies to achieve this, for example, images of the same mineral in different states (solid and liquid) or with different characteristics (rough and polished) showing us the vulnerability of these unconceivable representations. All the images seem to be coated with a dark, wet, melted substance. These images are presenting nothing but themselves.

THE SWAMP by Sofia Borges

Open spine soft-cover book with wraparound dust jacket

184 pages
49 colour plates
22 black & white plates
21 cm x 26 cm

Publication date: May 2016

ISBN 9781910164624



Alejandro Acin is director of IC-Visual Lab, an organization based in Bristol (UK) that aims to promote and produce contemporary photography through a series of events and commissioned projects. IC-Visual Lab organises Photobook Bristol, an international festival for photobooks in Bristol.

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