Oscopic Responses: Intimacy

(Image: taken from The New Yorker

In Dr. Bond’s post, ”Intimacy,” his concern lies in the giving over of details which in the past were regarded as private, which were, he contends, more cherished in times past. The critic he quotes, Walter Benjamin, was writing in 1931, and makes a similar lamentation, and so we must wonder, as Benjamin claims, and which Bond extends to the 21st century, is there something inherent in lens-based production and reproduction of images which makes precarious the divide between our private and public lives? Perhaps, though, we should instead question the notion of a divide between our private and public lives.

Privacy, for the layman, seems rather new. This would be an interesting point of research, the conception of privacy in relation to the development of photography, and the concomitant ability for mass reproduction.

In a review in The New Yorker of a then forthcoming book, one made up primarily of intimate photographs made by Paul Child of his wife, the famous, Julia Child, as well as photographs which demonstrate Paul Child’s attention to detail and composition, Cynthia Zinn writes:

[The second category, and the endless sun of these photographs, is Julia.
He can’t keep his eyes off her. A contact sheet of Julia’s long legs,
propped up in a telephone booth; her open, ruddy face as she arranges a
picnic in a newly mown field; Julia sunbathing with a friend on a Paris
rooftop; a nude portrait, silhouetted against a closed curtain in a
hotel room. We’re so accustomed to Julia Child the ample lioness,
hooting over a slippery chicken, that it’s a shock to see her gamine,
gawky as a gazelle in her early days in Paris. In one of the most
beautiful photographs collected here, she’s standing on a hillside in
Les Baux-de-Provence, arms akimbo, the curve of her stance echoed in the
branches of the nearby pine trees. She’s thirty-six. It’s before
books—before the thousand-page manuscript that became “Mastering the Art
of French Cooking”—before cooking on television, before fame. She’s
laughing. She looks like a woman with an appetite.]

One more point to draw from Bond’s post is that he makes a plain but important point: If the intimacy which we are afforded into the lives of our friends and strangers, celebrities and public figures, by a platform such as Instagram were mandated, it would be dehumanizing, a monstrous demand put upon individuals by a totalitarian state.

To bring all of these together, the ability of mass reproduction, the question of a false sense of intimacy propagated through a platform like Instagram, and evidence of a historical inquiry into private moments such as reflected in the book of photographs of Julia Child by her husband, we must wonder, was there ever a divide, for even before photography there was painting, and before painting there was drawings on walls, depicting aspects of our lives. Humans have always sought to convey visually aspects of their life, and, due to the very nature of creation, of storytelling through images, it will always be fragmented, always be incomplete, never be fully truthful or encompassing in scope, will never truly permeate into our quiet thoughts. And perhaps this mass production of images by more individuals than ever before will afford, in the decades or centuries to come, insight into how humanity lives today. Perhaps, as evidence by hashtags such as #WeAreAllKhalidSaid or #WeAreThe99Percent, we have to demand that such sharing of intimate moments continue to be by choice. Perhaps it is more important that we maintain control of our own narrative, rather than giving it over to mass narratives.

Perhaps, though, we can’t see that we are being used for profit, that our participation in the social medias is the driving force behind the growth in value of these companies, and their inevitable construction of an economy which is seen or felt as play, but which is really exploitation.

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