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camera 8 004 Where would society be without reproducible images? Would we still be in caves sharing a look at a cave painting? Would we be in a church or monastery, partaking in a ritual or looking at a handcrafted attempt to reconcile a religious idea to a piece of parchment?

img065In the beginning some men went beyond looking at the “created” image and created another one, an interpretation or a plain copy. In some religions the creation of an image of a human, the closest thing to the likeness of men in the image of God, was forbidden. In others, it was the “Holy Image” that was copied.

In which age do we live? Do we have to climb a tower to look afar in order to inform ourselves about the world around us? Is there a purpose however minute or large to any type of image? I will have to raid my own image archive to express some of my thoughts on the subject matter and possibly provoke yours.

camera 8 001What is it? Who drove it? Where are the wheels? The image below is the back end image, a common image in modern society. Imagine seeing a similar image “fleeing” from you, or looking in the mirror and see it come towards you only to surpass you without a trace of the last view.

camera 8 002This is, no doubt, the image of a discarded and decaying leftover material carcass of an age of abundance, where you could aspire to own something very exclusive, perhaps only good to differentiate yourself, within the bigger picture of a whole tribe riding their horses.

Today’s fear for many among us, is not to be “noticed” at all, but the fear of not being noticed ever, a fear of a mindless or soulless meager existence in the sea of images and the information these images create. Put in a different context, if you will, it is like riding horses with the tribe, but seeing yourself  as or being seen as a distinctive part of the tribe.

Here is what a 20th Century artist had to say: ” The spectator makes the picture “Marcel Duchamp.

Another 20th Century artist, a word smith hammering the anvil of life, wrote this: “The mystery of the world is the visible not the invisible “ Oscar Wilde.

A metaphor perhaps to an existing condition of the self, present in every period or age.

So let us examine a simple action and “fold out or open” another image.

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Back of the record cover

Front of the record cover

Is the unfolded image shown above telling you a complete story? Perhaps.

Some artists would argue and say, start over and reconstruct an existing image and allow me to express a personal freedom, the questioning of process.

In the society we live in today, for many, it is an age of uncertainty, an image of a person, reconstructed could end up looking like the image on this decades old record cover below.

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1978 record cover Talking Heads, made up of 529 polaroids. The concept is by David Byrne

Slowly,  our contemporary culture based on the hegemony of technology leads us to a “total” view of things, something not available to us in the past centuries, something revolutionary, something bigger than life, on the back cover of the below record cover. Something we could not imagine, a whole picture of what had previously been thought of as an “abstract world” constructed out of bits of pieces of information.The back cover is a reproduction of Portrait USA. This is the first color photomosaic of the USA, and is made up of 569 photos taken from space by Landsat satellite. Each photo in the mosaic is made up of red and two different infra-red regions. These light regions were chosen because they help bring out the differences in geographical forms and types of vegetation. Each image is made up of many scan lines, much like a TV picture.

Analog information is converted to digital information and then transmitted to various ground receiving stations. This information is then converted into a black and white picture corresponding to each spectral region. These can then be combined to make the color pictures used in this mosaic. Portrait USA is copyrighted by General Electric Co. in 1976. It was produced by their Beltsville Photo Engineering Lab with the assistance of the National Geographic Society and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Do we now have the total picture? Let us look at some images converted and deconstructed for subsequent re-assembly by the painter/artist David Hockney in the 1984 fabulous photo book Camera Works by Lawrence Weschler.

This book is the definitive survey of Hockney’s photographic work. For a later interview with Hockney centered on photography, read a review in this blogspot post by Blake Andrews.

camera 9 016 Play, experiment, reorder, compose, decompose, cycle, recycle. This is the wheel of life, is there an image without some form of memory and when does an image become memory? Does memory create the same image or a similar one, a sort of “softer” less in-focus image?

What does one of the experts in aesthetics have to say about some of these matters?

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) can be our first choice here as he is one of the Twentieth Century’s greatest philosophers and best known for two very important texts.

The first is The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, and the second one is the Arcades Project (Das Passagen Werk).

walter benjamin(photo courtesy es.wikipedia)

“It took Proust to make the Nineteenth Century ripe for memories.” (Benjamin, “The Image of Proust”)

“Thus all remembrance of things past indicates the inevitable absence of the self from itself.” (Carol Jacobs, The Dissimulating Harmony)

These two quotes are found in this exceptional article by Amresh Sinha.

Is the image the only link to past and future? A step closer to a part answer to round the subject off, is found in this very exceptional video about Walter Benjamin’s life and work by John Hughes (Youtube).