[...] What Dominique Somers has been researching is the ontological question as to how the photographic image comes about as an object, and what that does to the portrayed and portrayer, and to our view of the world. Photography is incident light, energy that burns itself into film, fire from the sky that is tamed by the lens and allowed through in such a dose that a wonderfully clear picture of reality’s contours appears on the film. A photo is a technically controlled natural disaster.

The flashlight is indeed the photo camera’s most murderous aspect, a medial extension of the nocturnal lightning stroke. The explosion of white light, whether a bulb or powder, renders the invisible visible, but at the same time blinds what it depicts. For a moment no one no longer sees anything, neither the portrayed nor the photographer, and in that dead time, the photograph realises itself, as an acheiropoetic image, an image that is not man-made.

Acheiropoetic images in Somers’ research are, among others, the red Lichtenberg figures that appear after lightning strikes a victim’s torso and arms, as a sort of photo made by lightning with the living body as its medium. The lines form long fractal patterns, like lightning itself, or a river system, a delta, and disappear after a couple of weeks. When lightning strikes in the desert sand, it leaves fulgurites: three-dimensional glass forms in brown and ochre that are created when the sand melts during the violent discharge of energy delivered on impact. A fulgurite is an index, the image as a consequence of its content and in that sense definitive, made by the lightning strike, unique and one-off. Both are examples of what lightning finds beautiful.

In the acheiropoetic image, nature photographs itself. It etches itself into a body or condenses itself into an autonomous object. That is also what photography does. It is an acheiropoetic technique. Everything and everyone on a photograph taken with a flashlight is fulgurite. [...]

ã Arjen Mulder, 2017