Ultimately – or at the limit – in order to see a photograph well, it is best to look away or close your eyes. "The necessary condition for an image is sight," Janouch told Kafka; and Kafka smiled and replied: "We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds. My stories are a way of shutting my eyes." Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

Photography is often connected to its special ability to capture a subject. Technically, photographic chemistry makes it possible to pick up and print the light beams of an illuminated object on the light-sensitive surface of photographic paper. Thus, there is often a focus on the ability of photography to ensure an appearance that, just like a stasis that is a stoppage of time freezes the depicted subject for posterity and remains in our memory.

With this issue of FILTER, however, we focus on one of the lesser discussed aspects of photography. We show how photography is not just characterised by appearance and everlastingness but also by the seemingly antithetic concept of disappearance. We do this in several ways. Partly we investigate the disappearances of photography on a material level by zooming in on the decomposition of photographs as physical objects. The fact that photographs are one of the most perishable media and hold a latent physical disintegration, generates great challenges for conservators, archivists and other people with an interest in history. And partly we illustrate how disappearances act as a central subject matter for a great number of photographers. One example is the political disappearances during the time of the Argentinean military dictatorship; another is the disappearance of people as a consequence of the East German intelligence service's persecution of pro-western citizens during the Cold War; and yet another is portrait photographs depicting the elusiveness of existence. Last but not least, we examine how photographic disappearances manifest themselves in connection with our use of pictures in a wider social context. Among other things we illustrate how the accumulation of private picture archives and the distribution of private pictures through social networks such as Facebook obliterate older photographic practices such as the family album. The culture of images is changing some types of pictures endure, some disappear.

Disappearance has almost become a mantra in our culture. The modern condition that all stable values are disintegrating and disappearing between our fingers seems as real as never before. But when the medium that is otherwise associated with a freezing of the past and a presentation of everlasting memorials is itself disappearing, our view of photography must be brought up for a renewed discussion. Photography might be a medium connected with the faculty of seeing and one that can make the subject in an almost magical way manifest itself before us, the spectators. But at the same time, as Kafka points out, it is a pictorial medium that makes oblivion possible and it is connected with disappearance in more than one way.

Please feel free to close your eyes and enjoy yourself forgetting all stories presented to you in this issue of FILTER.