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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Through My Eyes

What follows here might be all wrong, it might not even mean anything. It may be that I am attempting to distinguish between things which are not different, or some similar fallacy. Nonetheless, let us set down some sentences, and see what happens!

There is a degree to which a photograph, especially a casual one, may be considered as a "first person" image. That is, the image may be seen as capturing what I the photographer, see at a given instant. We have self-portraits, sometimes nude, shot in mirrors. We have photographs of "my latte", "my entree", which are explicitly the photographer's eye view. Of course, almost every photograph is literally the photographer's eye view. These photographs are more than that, though, capturing in some sense what the photographer saw or would have seen even if there was no photograph. There is no particular effort to show the subject off particularly well, there is no sense that the photographer adopted a clarifying point of view, or a point of view aimed at making a point, or of juxtaposing the subject with another object, or any of the familiar photographic tropes. It is a picture of an object, shot as I saw it.

Certainly not every casually taken image looks first person, and certainly not every carefully crafted professional image looks third person, but equally certain, I believe, some images do look first person in this sense.

Separately from the look of a photograph, consider the spirit in which a photograph is taken. I believe also that the vast majority of casual photographs are taken in this first person spirit. They are made by casual photographers who see, raise the camera, and click. The point of view is fundamentally "what I am looking at right now" whether or not this is clearly revealed in the image.

Casual photography has, I think, changed in this sense. Decades ago, even casual snapshots where taken from more of a third person attitude. These are my things, this is my wife. Here I am, having tripped the self-timer. This is where I was on vacation. The aim was to record the important things, the attractive things, the interesting things in my life. The aim, perhaps, was to use the camera as an impartial third party, documenting aspects of my life. In more modern times one imagines that the camera has changed in our hands, we no longer need to husband our film. We can shoot, shoot, shoot, and so the camera becomes more and more an augmentation of our own eyes. Rather than recording our Christmas Tree for future generations, we want to show these cool shoes to Kathy who loves red shoes right now hey Kathy check out these shoes I am looking at right now should I buy them?

With this change there is surely some change in the way we, as a society, view photographs. This is not to suggest that we collectively view all photographs as if they were dumb snaps of our latte. Still, surely the ubiquity of the the dumb latte shots will inform how we collectively view all of photography? Are we more conscious of the photographer? Do we give less credence to the notion of enduring? I don't know. I feel like something's up, though.

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