"I share with the Surrealists a fascination for the uncanny dimension of ordinary vernacular photographs, in other words, ones designated to some instrumental function. I am not so interested in the aesthetic uses of photography, especially the self-conscious ‘art photography’ of the Surrealists. What Dalí seems to be interested in when he speaks of photography’s automatism was its unconsciousness or its unselfsconsciousness. I suspect this was also their fascination with film stills. However, this is where I differ fundamentally from the Surrealist’s dedication to the unconscious and to their investment in ‘excessive gestures and repressed desires’. The film still for me seems to work in a reverse way — the making unconscious of cultural experience, which in my view is dominantly consumed unconsciously. The Surrealists wanted to immerse the subject in the unconscious, though whether or not that is what they were doing is another matter. I feel closer to Walter Benjamin in wanting to give to the spectral dream world of everyday life, and especially cinematic consumption, a self-conscious awareness.
A more overtly critical project?
Yes. In other words, to make the unconscious conscious rather than the other way around. Though of course I am prepared to admit that my work may be doing something quite different from what I am aiming for. Indeed, what interests me in what happens in the work is what appears in spite of my intentionality. If a work proceeds without digression from intention to realization, I am deeply suspicious of it. Perhaps one can only hope for a dialectical tension between what one calls conscious control and awareness and a submission to the unknowable dimension of the image. Certainly though, I am interested in the capacity of the film still to reveal what is hidden from conscious apprehension in ordinary cinematic consumption. For me, this is the twist that Situationism gave to Surrealism in the late 1960s.”
— John Stezaker in Seams & Interruptions: a conversation with David Campany, Frieze Masters, 2 (Oct, 2013)