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.

Oscopic Responses: Panoscopic

In three sentences Henry Bond makes three claims in his post, ”Panoscopic,” regarding the experience of the internet-user: 1. “The view is panoramic or panoscopic;” 2. The “browsing is fueled by curiosity;” 3. “The user’s fascination unfolds as an unpredictable and erratic narrative emerging
as a stream-of-consciousness: volatile and mercurial; charged up with
abounding impulses.”

If I were to consider these as manifesting a human metaphor, it would be that of a person navigating something akin to the “Tron” film’s navigation of data, or of the “Interstellar” film’s navigating of the fifth dimension, an unending field of potential visual engagement, but these don’t work quite, because he doesn’t claim any physical interaction.

And while I wouldn’t say any of his claims are wholly untrue, they are partially untrue.

In today’s world of screens, there is a constant mediation, that is, a broken interface (a la McLuhan), there is a necessity of physical interaction, we must swipe, flick, flit, tap, hold. In his post Bond claims that the internet-user’s view is panoscopic, elaborating, “continuous seeing-observing,” but that would presume no breaks. There was a time when, with dial up, the internet wasn’t fast enough to keep our attention. Our lives are filled with minute to grand physical distractions, as well as embodied distractions: the struggle of living. But, to engage faithfully with his point, these can be assuaged with the caveat of, “in a way” there is a continuous seeing-observing. But what, with such a caveat, is the value of a statement, for also with a similar caveat, then, is not life a panoramic view, a panoscopic view, a continuous seeing-observing?

And in today’s world of digital marketing, of cookies (not the edible kind), we must admit that our browsing is as much structured as random, is as much driven by what is available and what is shown to us, as much as what we seek out. Furthermore, as the world evolves to revolve more and more around 0s and 1s, and as access to the internet because as important as a home address to write on a bank account application, we must recognize that browsing is as fueled by necessity as by curiosity, for we browse for jobs, for homes, for banks, for friends, for relationships, and while all of these can have in them a genuine curiosity, it is not curiosity alone.

The internet-user today loses some of their independence the moment they engage with the internet, as much as they lose some of their independence the moment they engage with the semi-democratic, capitalism-laden societies which permeate the world over, for, with very few and only minor exclusions or exceptions or caveats, we live in a world made of and for capitalism. And so the need to acquire capital dominates the majority of our actions, and often our curiosities, our pleasures, are a means of reclaiming something, whether physical space, mental space, emotional space—the beer after work to unwind, the coffee early in the morning staring out the window to prepare, the walk over lunch to promote digestion or mindfulness or to allow for a smoke.

But it is only acknowledging the limits of our panoscopy, our curiosity-driven-browsing, that we can gain a meta-perspective on our experience of fascination through browsing the internet, and recognize the ways in which we are constrained, and especially the ways we are constrained and made use of, that is, that we can recognize the ludic economy (forgive me, but I can’t remember the theorist I read which expounded on this, but it may very well be again McLuhan) which is ever increasing. And there within the meta-perspective can we find nooks and crannies to exploit and subvert these constraints, and return some bit of power to ourselves.

How To Make Money With Photography (a big fucking question)

If you’re me, the answer is, don’t try.

At least not yet, not the first…six or seven years of learning.

That is, I’ve valued my independence, and felt too readily capitalism’s stranglehold over the traditional avenues for people at my level (not especially good at anything other than that which I deem valuable from an artistic expression standpoint) and in my geographical context (Iowa, USA).

I worked whatever menial job afforded me the time to walk about with my camera. And I eschewed digital photography with its ever-improving-necessitating-buying-new-equipment, for why participate in the mass gear acquisition syndrome when I could barely afford to purchase, let alone develop, let alone scan at high resolution, the film I’d been shooting for years, when I could use cameras and lenses 40, 50, 60 years old that would produce negatives which, when scanned, when eventually scanned, how many ever years I’d have to wait, would produce images of a resolution to rival any DSLR for most intents and purposes?

Over time, here and there, unexpectedly, I made money—and I enjoyed doing so, for I said, “No,” often and comfortably, or I explained why I felt uncomfortable accepting the task, which had the effect of corralling the task into one where I felt joy at undertaking it. And where I could use that camera and film which I was already carrying.

This past year I’ve made a bit more, and I purchased a 5 year old digital camera, and adapters, so that I could use my old lenses still, and I’ve done a bit of wedding photography and photojournalism, and it’s left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth, though I suspect not as much as if I’d sought the work out myself, rather than let it come to me.

So, how to make money in photography? I’ve not changed my tactics: become good enough, that people want to purchase a single print which I saw in my mind’s eye in a moment while walking by.

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