Tuesday, January 21

What is Photography?

Eli , 2013
Photography to me is a relic of time that has passed. It allows us to capture and store ephemeral moments as a physical (or digital) object. In the excerpt from Camera Lucida, Barthes notes that "the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially". In this way, a photograph simultaneously represents the immortality and death of a moment. When we look at a photograph it might bring us joy from the memory of having been there, but it can also elicit a sadness rooted in the limitations of the human condition since we can never live a moment more than once. Through the photograph, we are able to visit times and places where we did not exist or could not witness without the assistance or mediation of the lens. Such is the case, when Barthes explores an image of his mother before he was born.

I would agree with Barthes that the very act of taking a photo imputes "a micro-version of death" on the object because we are disrupting the flow of time, and disjointing the subject from its true essence. Photography is riddled with dualities because it allows for moments to be both accessible and elusive.

While photography is considered an art, i would also argue that it's a science because all images are constructed through our perception (whether consciously or not). Photographs are windows into the minds of the photographer, the subject, and also ourselves. How we interpret an image may be partially swayed by the way the photographer has carefully staged or cropped the image. However, our own experiences and perception ultimately influence the way in which we are impacted. The punctum within a single image may be drastically different for two people based on personal associations and memories.
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