The Unseen Eye; W. M. Hunt. Thames and Hudson, 1994.
When I was in my early teens I discovered Diane Arbus. I also discovered Weegee, Eugene Meatyard and Dorothea Lange, but Arbus was the big one. I found all these books on photography in the attic and would bring them down in piles to my room and look at them in bed at night. Then I’d return the pile I had looked at in exchange for another. When the piles ran out I just re-looked.
This book brings that all back to me, the feeling of discovering images so overloaded with truth and despair that I couldn’t look away.
W. M. Hunt is the collector behind this book. Here is what he’s written in the preface:
This is a book of photographs, a selection from a large collection gathered over many years, comprised of what I describe as magical, heart-stopping images of people in which the eyes are somehow obscured, veiled, hidden, blocked, averted or closed. I have never really sorted out why I was initially drawn to collecting, to something so particularly, or what fuelled and sustained this passion. However, I maintain that these are all portraits of me. They are all manifestations of my unconscious.
I have decided to split this book into several posts to do it justice.
These two photos have this particular effect on me: I want to look away but I can’t. I find them incredibly disturbing, even though I know that the face with the white cloth is just a ‘hooded witness’ at a trial. The other is a Weegee, ‘Masked and Shackled Man, 1940s’. Here there is something happening that I don’t understand, that is mysterious, but I can’t get away from the simple distortion of the human face. It is an image of terror.