What does an image mean? That may seem like a broad question, fair enough, so I’ll narrow it down. What can the contents, or lack thereof, of an image mean? That’s a little more specific but still quite general I’ll admit. However, it hits at an important, in some ways multi-pronged, idea: that the examination of an image’s makeup is key, but that which is missing may also be of importance.
So, to follow this thread line, let’s ask another, much more specific, question. What does the image of a grassy, rocky, hilly, lifeless landscape with a large monolithic head of rock mean? Well for one thing, it obviously has been moved there. There exists no mountain of which this head could have been carved from, and the stone looks quite different from the little juts of rock that lay scattered in the image. Another detail lay in its strange, elongated design, which with enough examination will expose the statues’ makeup to being that of a relatively full body and not solely a head. This combined will its seemingly buried nature and a lack of disturbance in the local grass will lead one to the rather obvious assumption that these heads, which any can find multiple distinct yet similarly framed images of with enough searching, are quite old. In all of this, however, I left out one fundamentally important factor.
Why are they here? The absence of people in most of these photos might lead you to the quite fair assumption that these ancient statues, with their oh so strange designs, are that of a bygone age and people. The last monuments to departed civilization, waving at us from the millennia-gone past showing us just a piece of their splendor and culture. Except this assumption would be wrong.
For despite the absence of people in these images the makers of these statues, which come in at mostly well under 700 years and old but by no means ancient coinciding with the Black Death in Europe, descendants still exist and live on this seemingly barren island inhabited in photography. These Rapanui, those who share the name with the island they inhabit, while forgotten are still trying to thrive in a world that both nearly killed them and now only remembers them through empty images of their monuments. This then can be what an image means: destruction.