Again Daniel Blaufuks


In a Rabbinical story the little boy who is coming out of the

Cheder, or Jewish elementary school, asks the Rabbi, ‘now that the

winter has come and it is already dark as I have to make way home,

what prayer should I repeat if, and when, the devil approaches me?’

The rabbi replies: ‘do you know the Aleph Beth?’ ‘Of course I know

the alpha Beth’ replied the boy proudly; ‘repeat the Aleph Beth and

all the possible prayers will be included’ replied the rabbi.  What

is the Aleph Beth of photography? Perhaps Daniel Blaufuks is giving

us his answer insofar as he attempts to capture the entire spectrum

of his existence as it was, as it is and could be.

Love, it is said, was the inventor of drawing. It might also be said

that Love invented speech, though less happily. But photography was

born at the same time as the detective story, at the time in which

the great multiplicity of the present emerged with its obsession

with non-Euclidean geometry.

Henry Cartier-Bresson defined the rule of photography for the end of

the 20th century in the following manner. “La Photographie”, he said

with characteristic conciseness, “c’est mettre sur la meme ligne la

tete, l’oeil et le coeur”. His attachment to graphic composition

was almost academic. So was his profound respect for reality, as is

manifest in his haunting images of a surging Chinese crowd in

Shanghai in 1949, bunched up in a bank line waiting to get their

money, or the floating body of a woman swimmer in the water in

Italy in 1933.  The ideal photograph for him was l’instant

decis’. The results of this concept were some of the most

arresting prints we have, in which life continues to disappear,

while the images remain.

Daniel Blaufuks indicated some time ago in Collected Short Stories

that he is inclined otherwise. For him the art of photography

contains the potential of capturing life in its entirety. His ideal

is that of picturing something which is always there if you care to

see.  It is above all the art of the city. All great cities are not

alike. They spring out of radically different cultures and the

sameness is only in the sociologist’s mind.  Yet, here, in

Blaufuk’s photographs, isolated individuals are captured in moments

in which they are divorced from their fellow human beings.

Impersonal bureaucracies, the rule of rational exchange and

rational law, the lack of personal contact between city dwellers

are the ever present shadows that constitute the map of where

things are, how they are divided and how physical vessels shape the

emotional and human experience.

Daniel Blaufuks shows us individuals in their acts, what happens to

us as we assume our daily tasks, as we are participating in so many

different ways in the lives of the city. Of course, we live in

segmented societies, of course, we are constantly shuffled

in order to conform. Yet, Daniel Blaufuks comprehensive image atlas

shows that we have  not lost our freedom to act. There is nothing

inevitable in our choice; we shape our passage subject to the

lights and shadows in our ordinary life, sometime darkened.

To the punctuality, calculability and exactness which color the

content of our life, and which favor the exclusion of those

irrational, instinctive, sovereign traits and impulses, this

photographer determines the mode of life from within, instead of

receiving schematized patterns from without. He cultivates a highly

personal subjectivity. Daniel Blaufuks is not blasé. As Simmel

pointed out over a century ago, the blasé attitude results from

rapidity and movement, compressed changes and contrasting

stimulations of the nerves. A life in boundless pursuit of

pleasure make one blasé because it agitates the nerves to their

strongest reactivity for such a long time that they finally cease

to react at all.

Daniel Blaufuks does not lose his agility, in that harmless

impressions elicit his response, his reserves of strength are never

spent, and he seems to derive new strengths from every milieu. Thus

he reacts to new sensations with the appropriate energy, so that he

has converted the blasé attitude which in fact is the inheritance of

every child in the city, into an endless capacity which emerges to

react to a new sensations with the appropriate energy. The most

variable milieux endlessly augment his vocabulary: the ever-new

experience is always part of his collection. He has taken the time

to register just about every possible sign of difference in our

cities. His archive is as much his future as his past. We would

find it difficult to choose the most important image among his

latest photographs.

Daniel Blaufuks composes his works from errant particles of reality,

each one of which has been felt personally. The humblest of object

is equal in value to the most precious; all can be captured and

photographed in the light and shadow of his lens. The same light

lies upon a cloud and upon a puff of cigarette smoke. It is not a

question of any object being more or less precious than any other.

Common things and smoke – which is beautiful in its own right –

reveal themselves to be two mirrors reflecting the same truth. The

whole value is in the eye of the photographer. Blaufuk’s intention

is to photograph things, not as he knows, or believes, them to be,

but strictly in accordance with those optical illusions of which

human vision, in its simplest and most immediate form, is made of.

He sets himself to create a feeling of ambiguity, so that the

spectator can never be quite sure what, in the picture, is a record

of objective fact, and what is seen directly in place. His work

discloses the presence of one of those invisible realities in which

we have ceased to believe, but to which we now once again feel

Blaufuks is strong enough to devote the whole of his life. He is

the artist who lays on, print-by-print, light and dark, the

mysterious colors of an infinitely valuable universe. The magic of

these images is proof that there exists something other than

emptiness that, so far we find in the love in the city.


Gradually as his oeuvre unfolds, the features detached themselves

one by one from the shades of night and day patterned, and raising

themselves toward  his lenses allowed their nude bodies to emerge,

rise, and stop at the limit of their course, at the luminous,

shaded surface on which their brilliant figures appear. Forever

separated from mortals, the transparent, shadowy realm to which

they serve as boundaries on their liquid brimming surfaces, limpid

and mirroring eyes in simple obedience to the laws of optics and

according to their angle of incidence. Beyond the boundary of the

pages, withdrawing from the limits of image domain, we are kept

turning the pages at every moment to smile up at a face, or toward

some reclining head, an apologetic smile, or a shadowy depth. Of

all of these retreats, to the threshold of which our mild desire

behold the works of a man who let none approach them, but, through

the use sensation as a means of stimulating a memory of

timelessness. His spiritual intuition, that is the source of his

creative impulse has to be expressed in the language of material

things. As all valid thought has its roots in daily life.

“A work of art which contains theories,” Proust said, “is like an

article on which the price tag has been removed”. Daniel Blaufuks

understands that he could better express his ideas using concrete

objects for the purpose. This, however, does not mean that we

cannot recognize in his work all the elements of a metaphysical

theory. Perception, dream, memory, the reality of the external

world, the puzzle of the intuitions of space and time – they are

given their quality and brought to life in theses pages.

It constitutes a method of discovery. His art demolishes obstacles,

those ready-realities that are interposed between our spirit and

the real. Again and again Daniel Blaufuks establishes relations

linking a pair of facts to a pair of facts.

If there exists a definite connection between human intelligence and

the universe it remains unknown, perhaps unknowable. Each work of

art defined its own field of time. Perhaps this is its greatest

freedom. In these new arrangements of our lives, we are oblige to

consider again in the light of this world, entirely different from

the world we leave  “in order to live once more beneath the sway of

those unknown laws which we obey because we bore their precepts in

our hearts, knowing not whose hand had traced them there – those

laws to which every profound work of the intellect brings us nearer

and which are invisible only – and still – to fools.”


(M.Proust: The Captive. Trans. C.K. Scott-Moncrieff. NY, Random House, 1941)