Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Frame-Viewing the Camera Cerebrum

The Watcher being watched - illustrating the two-way nature of public photography


Post-Script: I've blogged about this before, some years ago (though I haven't included a link), and discussed it a bit on the F295 pinhole discussion forum at one point. I see a connection between what I've termed "frame-viewing" and plein air painting or sketching in public, the difference being that, in this case, the only record of the image is internal to the "fauxtographer" himself. So in theory it should be a pastoral enterprise, innocent enough, indicative of the higher intentions of a learned and sophisticated culture. Yet it is bound to remain controversial, if for no other reason than the fact that humans aren't the only species who exhibit a physical reaction to being gazed upon by another. It is this fact, of a biological response, that should preface all other discussion around "street" or other forms of public photography, or even surveillance.

My trepidation over pursuing further the public phase of this project is based on my personality trait of desiring to avoid all confrontation. That is why I would never make a real good street photographer, or even photojournalist, even though I've amassed a sizable portfolio of urban landscape and documentary images; they've mostly been devoid of the direct human presence.

I can also easily see the common-sense aspect to many people's objection over being publicly gazed upon, since in our present culture there's an ever-grayer line, and increased fear, between valid public image-making, and voyeurism or even exploitation. I don't think this project is intended to address or in any way dispel these concerns, either, for that is not my interest.

What does interest me is the relationship between the photographer, the subject, the camera device and, in the case of recordable images, the resulting photograph itself. I think these complex relationships inform much of the greatest publicly-situated photographs from the 20th century. I do find it fascinating that this simple framing device is able to provide some fresh insight into this ongoing subject, hopefully contributing to some ongoing dialog about the relationship between imagery and observation within our culture.

It is very possible that we desire to gaze upon others because in doing so we also see ourselves in them. That might help explain the continuing yet inexplicable popularity in the "selfie" as a photographic genre, whereby the technology has sufficiently advanced to the point of enabling a continual self-photography, a magic mirror we hold up to ourselves. It is also possible that none of this is entirely novel, since mirrors have been around for millennia.

Photos via Lumix G5. Typecast via Corona 4.

PPS: I should also make mention that back several decades ago there were viewing devices very much like this frame (but without the clicker device), manufactured and sold for use by large format photographers as an aid in culling out potential compositions. In use, the photographer would traipse around the rugged wilderness with viewing frame attached to a neck lanyard, without the bother of lugging along his entire camera, tripod and other gear. The viewer would be set up to simulate the same angle of view and format aspect ratio as the camera and lens being employed. When a potential scene was found, notations would be made in a notebook, after which the photographer could return at a later time, with his entire kit in tow, to make the exposure.

PPPS: After some concerted blog searching, here are all the past articles I could find that pertain to this project, either directly or by inspiration. You can see that the roots of the camera cerebrum go back at least as far as 2007.







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Blogger Bill M said...

I think you have proven what has been said of all the selfie snapping, capture everything seen on one's smart phone, and forget the place/event relying only on the recorded image poor memory of the digital age. Someone did a study and found those snapping away with their digital device quickly forgot what they photographed while those who did not photograph or used a real camera and took their time and thought about the area and image remembered it much longer and in more detail without even looking at the photo.

6:11 PM  
Blogger DonN said...

Using your brain as the "film" of course has risks of its own. Recall how, in Lawrence of Arabia (the movie), Auda (Anthony Quinn) asks the photographer "Am I in there?", and in response to an affirmative answer, promptly smashes the camera. Like a mad dog...

4:19 PM  
Blogger Joe V said...

Don, that's funny, I'd forgotten that scene. The other risk is the image changing over time. A recent PBS Nova program addressed the issue of memory, and it seems that every time a memory is recalled it can be easily altered. So these would be more like JPEGs than raw files. ;)

4:43 PM  

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