Friday, March 25, 2011

Camera Lucida – Reflections on Photography

He Who Is Photographed by Roland Barthes

On the discomfort of being photographed: “No doubt it is metaphorically that I derive my existence from the photographer. But though this dependence is an imaginary one (and from the purest image-repertoire), I experience it with the anguish of an uncertain filiation: an image – my image – will he generate: will I be born from an antipathetic individual or from a “good sort” If only I could “come out” on paper as on a classical canvas, endowed with a noble expression – thoughtful, intelligent, etc.! In short, if I coud be “painted” (by Titian) or drawn (by Clouet)?” - Roland Barthes

On what the person being photographed wants: “But since what I want to have captured is a delicate moral texture and not a mimicry, and since Photography is anything but subtle except in the hands of the very greatest portraitists, I don't know how to work upon my skin from within... What I want in short is that my (mobile image, buffeted among a thousand shifting photographs, altering with situation and age, should always coincide with my (profound) “self”; but it is the contrary that must be said: “myself” never coincides with my image; for it is the image which is heavy, motionless, stubborn (which is why society sustains it), and “myself” which is light, divided, dispersed; like a bottle-imp. “myself” doesn't hold still, giggling in my jar: if only Photography could give me a neutral, anatomic body, a body which signifies nothing! Alas I am doomed by (well-meaning) Photography to always have an expression: my body never finds its zero degree, no one can give it to me (perhaps only my mother? For it is no indifference which erases the weight of the image – the Photomat always turns you into a criminal type, wanted by the police – but love, extreme love).” - Roland Barthes

On the conflict with being photographed: “...the Photograph is the advent of myself as other: a cunning dissociation of consciousness from identity... The portrait-photograph is a closed field of forces. Four image-repertoires intersect here, oppose and distort each other. In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.” - Roland Barthes

On why we play the game: “We specialise in pinpoint attention. We look at this and we look at that. And we select from all the things we might be possibly aware of, only certain things. And as a result of that, we leave out of our everyday consciousness. One, amazing beauty of experience that we never see at all. And on the other hand, the sense of our basic identity...” - “Seeing Beyond Our Separateness” – Alan Watts (MP3)

My Highly Subjective & Random Reflections: In any society dominated by images and icons, by superficiality and the appeal and lauding of consuming inordinately large amounts of aesthetically pleasing objects, people are raised to be extremely self-aware and self-conscious, to be a self-monitoring child in a way that will help the child slip into his adult role as a consumer-spectator more easily. Cultural rules dictate how to play the game of facades, the types of masks and roles played that are acceptable. We can't escape it, try as we (myself) might because otherwise we become isolated and ostracised. As a performer, perfecting the art of playing the game becomes a profession. And this is captured and lauded in such sites and phenomena as Ulzzang and Hot or Not, even Facebook & Myspace, all these things I am inclined to hate 95% of the time because you can only see a sliver of who I truly am. “This is a snippet of me, of how I want to see myself and how I want you to see me.”

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