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Thread: Camera Lucida

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    <3 gator's Avatar
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    Camera Lucida

    So my homework this week is to write poetry inspired by Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes.

    I'm a little stuck at the moment. Maybe if we discuss it I will think of something?

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    I find the opening chapter interesting about the picture of Napoleon's brother. There are pictures of the Duke of Wellington and Andrew Jackson too, as well as innumerable people who lived in the 18th century. There is this odd experience realising there is this border between those who lived before photography, whose likeness is lost forever, and those afterwards who are kept alive chemically. And to me the fascinating thing is that boundary in the 1840's and 1850's where the old were captured - just about. And it's not just people - landscapes and cities before that seem kind of dead, or almost fictional, captured in media that are inherently stylised.

    Old photos... calotypes and daguerrotypes do appear to a sense of melancholy of mortality and loss. I think the fact that they capture their subjects in such a sparse way, without the colour and background of modern painting, and often faded through time gives them this ghostly aura.
    Last edited by ferrus; 05-30-2015 at 05:26 PM.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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    <3 gator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ferrus View Post
    I find the opening chapter interesting about the picture of Napoleon's brother. There are pictures of the Duke of Wellington and Andrew Jackson too, as well as innumerable people who lived in the 18th century. There is this odd experience realising there is this border between those who lived before photography, whose likeness is lost forever, and those afterwards who are kept alive chemically. And to me the fascinating thing is that boundary in the 1840's and 1850's where the old were captured - just about. And it's not just people - landscapes and cities before that seem kind of dead, or almost fictional, captured in media that are inherently stylised.

    Old photos... calotypes and daguerrotypes do appear to a sense of melancholy of mortality and loss. I think the fact that they capture their subjects in such a sparse way, without the colour and background of modern painting, and often faded through time gives them this ghostly aura.
    Perhaps. Though it's important to remember that photographs are just another visual style, especialy the early photographic processes that were not able to capture subjects with much fidelity. The skill and speed with which the plates or negatives were processed would have an effect on the finished result, and there was lots of post-production and alteration that went on, even with early photography. And one can argue that when photography was new, the act of sitting for a photo was not much different from the experience of sitting for a painted portrait.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that photographs are not necessarily truer representations of reality than paintings.

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gator View Post
    I guess what I'm trying to say is that photographs are not necessarily truer representations of reality than paintings.
    They aren't, no.

    But equally they capture something tangible (and not necessarily 'real') that even hyper-realism in painting can't capture, insofar as it is always a moment fraught with idiosyncrasy, which to my mind is why they induce a sense of loss. No amount of post-processing even really destroys that, it can just mute it our or emphasise it. Even pictures of people who are still alive are in some sense very different from the kind of person who was caught in that moment before.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    The recent images released by NASA of Pluto seem to raise similar issues.

    Sontag was a writer and filmmaker. The book she wrote in 1977 remains a pillar of contemporary thought on photography and the fallibility of what it creates. A photo “passes” for proof of an object or event, but it can never be considered absolute truth.

    It’s not hard for a photographer to understand why you’d question actually seeing Pluto—the same question has nagged photographers since Nicéphore Niépce made View from the Window at Le Gras in 1826. A camera is a simple machine: A lens and a shutter that allows the passage of light, which hits the chemical emulsion of film or the pixels of a digital sensor. That intervening technology takes photons bouncing off an object and interpolates them into data. More technology turns that data into an image. And still more technology disseminates that image so you might see it.

    “The moment you stick something between you and an object, you’re no longer seeing it the way it is,” says Phil Plait, astrophotographer and writer of Slate‘s Bad Astronomy blog. “Our eyes are very easily fooled by perspective and optical illusions. Our brain has to interpret what our eyes are doing. You’re not seeing the way the world really is under any circumstances.”
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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