• the inhabitable image
  • the inhabitable image
  • the inhabitable image

the inhabitable image

a dwelling place for the soul

An inhabitable photograph, like a good story, offers the soul a place to stay, for a while. When the soul embraces a form, dwells on it, finds pleasure in it, a mere object becomes poetry. Perhaps it evokes the memory of a feeling long forgotten, or a vision, almost familiar, of an existence not yet materialized. It may be the evening light that appears to reconcile us with everything, a path to walk on into the night, a field to rest your eyes on sitting with your back against a tree, a pool to linger at when the day is hot, the corner of an old attic room where you would like to live forever, or a face you want to keep looking at for the rest of your life.


As a physical phenomenon an image made by light does not represent anything close to reality, recording only an infinitesimal small fraction of all the electromagnetic energy present at any given time and place. This could be a sobering thought but we desperately want visual images to depict the world we can remember and imagine – no matter how limited – and through these images we seek some form of permanence, an experience less fleeting than life itself.


We tend to interpret a photographic image in terms of events that happen and moments that pass: a swirling world of light having grown still forever. However, the image that results from a photographic exposure is not a moment in time, nor is it ‘frozen time’. Once an image is created it’s just timeless, showing an innocent world wholly sufficient by itself, without the need for time to hold it together or to give it meaning.



Nothing ‘out there’ has any meaning in itself. It’s only in the mind that things may mean something, like red, yellow and blue, or coming to life, and being gone forever. When you find yourself lingering over an image, the soul has already made its choice, as in love at first sight. There’s nothing the intellect might ever be able to add to it in terms of truth. No need to impoverish a boundless experience by narrowing it down and pretending to make sense of it.


If we refrain from explaining everything immediately in terms of time (and let the babbling mind idle, or even stall), we may be able to look at a photograph with a more soulful perspective, accepting meaningful connections out of a deeper realm, where everything exists all at once.


Bringing our visual imagination to life, and letting us quietly roam about in it, is what photography can do best. Never mind if it’s not about physical reality. It’s about what we want to see, yet the images that concern us most are unforeseeable in their felicity and grace.


From: the inhabitable image – a dwelling place for the soul


“Thought and experience are not the only things that sanction human values. The values that belong to daydreaming mark humanity in its depths.”

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space


about this site

Stan Schaap

Photography – the recording of light – is a way of playing with our visual imagination. It’s not about reality. It’s about what we want to see.

What drives our imagination is the will to see, and thereby create, a reality for ourselves, a deep desire innate to our restless human nature. This desire is what photography is eminently equipped for to exploit artistically.

Even though I’m supposed to be the creator of my photographic images, I’m the sucker who falls first under their spell. That’s how much I love the illusions I can create with a photographic system (camera, lens, light-sensitive material, post-processing, and presentation).

I do not believe that we can really master an art, but we can become useful human vehicles for whatever wants to be expressed – not only in art, although it can well be argued that life itself is art. The unknown in us is making the choice of the most adequate way of expression through this particular consciousness at this particular point in time and space. The result may seem a bit awkward and flawed but that is as far as it can go with our awareness, and yet offers eminent teaching for us at this moment. As timeless consciousness we are responsible at the level of expression, and as humans we are taken to court at the level of the expressed (time, place, humans, and justice all being part of the expressed).

Being retired now, I find that fine art photography has become my full-time occupation. I happen to live close to a natural park in the dunes, where I love to roam and can open myself easily to every inspiration my mental eye could possibly need. I don’t have to travel far anymore for an image to find me.

This web site provides a platform to share my imagined world with you.


Stan Schaap

Castricum, The Netherlands

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