Walter Benjamin and John Berger

 

Such a fascinating video, totally related to Walter Benjamin Art work in the age of mechanical reproduction.
Benjamin twisted my mind into thinking and over thinking about replicas. He doesn’t seem to believe that paintings are a copy, but rather they are original. what I mean by a copy, is that its a copy of reality, perhaps the artist’s reality, but thats another case for another day. he speaks of perception as if a universal perception exists, and that we can grasp the definition of it, and generalize it. He also speaks of reality, but what drove me crazy is trying to understand what Benjamin meant by reality… and Art, well that is another ambiguous word, or rather ambiguous worLd. Until today, the debate of photography as art or not is still heated, Benjamin however, raise another question, which is: have photography revolutionized art? but what is this art he speak of? which brings me to my next perhaps sketchy conclusion; art is subjective, the question of wither photography is art or not is also subjective, which makes the final question of if photography contributes to art an objective one based on the early two answers. but that is not an answer, that is an invitation to open up our minds… and that is what Walter Benjamin did to my mind.

As For John Berger, the way he talks about the human eye and the lens is very, well, eye opening! that our human eyes is the center in the world while the camera lens has the world as its center. but what wandered in my head is the question of being in the presence of a painting, which he raise, why is it different than viewing the same painting in a photograph, or in tv? he explains how the digital world changes the way we perceive the meaning of the painting, but there is something more, perhaps the experience itself of being in a museum triggers a sublime feeling, the fact that we know we are looking at a painting that was done a century or more ago, but does that make age measures the painting’s value? or is it the history or the painting? questions, questions, questions…

and since we are photographers… here is a visual work of my favorite artist in all time, Marcel Duchamp

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River of Shadows #reading

By comparing and contrasting the invention of photography with the railway, Solnit comes to the crux of their difference. Photography is a new technology, which by definition is moving human society forward, yet its aim is to look back. By immortalizing the past, photography, much like writing, increases the time knowledge is recollected for. Similarly, the railway, and other forms of locomotion, drastically changes the way in which people lived, by opening the possibility of seeing more than one place throughout a lifetime. In some ways, photography was a response to locomotion, trying to freeze the time which was going much too fast due to locomotion. Though I agree with this point, I feel that Solnit may have misinterpreted Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote of ‘Not only is distance annihilated, but when, as now, the locomotive and the steamboat, like enormous shuttles, shoot every day across the thousand various threads of national descent and employment, and bind them fast in one web, an hourly assimilation goes forward, and there is no danger that local peculiarities and hostilities should be preserved.’ Solnit claims that Emerson ‘approves of the erasure (of local character)’. However, Emerson was part of the transcendental movement, born in New England. This philosophy was greatly opposed to the industrial evolution, and stressed a return to nature. Transcendentalists were particularly upset by the locomotive as it is mentioned in many of their texts. Though I think she misinterpreted this quote by Emerson, I agree with many of the points Solnit made, and she made me consider the relationship between technologies born around the same time.

Lentil Soup #reading

Unsure of the purpose behind Lentil Soup, I read it as a history of the lens, which made a logical evolution into the camera. A few excerpts particularly caught my attention. The first is the invention of a ‘spherical bottle filled with water, used as a fire-starting device, known as a fire glass’. I have recently been watching a lot of documentaries on the origin of cooking and its relation to our culture as humans, and more broadly, what exactly has caused our diversion from other animals. The invention of fire was a particularly significant turning point in human history, as it allowed for more effective feeding, allowing humans to spend more time on other things. Therefore, any invention facilitating the creation of fire is bound to be spread quickly.

In addition, I particularly enjoyed the little shout-out to the photogram as ‘that early, elementary, accessible for of light drawing that requires neither camera nor lens – should have enjoyed a major vogue. It never did.’

A Centenary of Photograph #reading

Valéry’s initial point on the origins of photography resonated the most with me. Valéry begins by describing the world in which photography emerged, a world which he describes as a ‘cult of Letters’. I had never considered the purpose of photographs today must, at some point, been done by writing, or potentially diagrams, once the printing press was invented. Though this may seem obvious to some, to me at least, there is very little overlap between what an image and text can convey. The gaze of someone in an image, for example, is extremely hard to describe. Its interpretation will depend on the viewer and the context in which it is viewed. Words, on the other hand, have a tendency to remain quite literal (especially in English). Valéry ends this point by says that we should ‘put our tools to a use more befitting their true nature’. This illustrates the potential and limitations of any new technology, including photography. Ultimately, these potentials and limitations are defined by the society that adopts it, rather than the technology itself.

Valéry then begins describing the philosophical implications of photography. Honestly, he lost me at this point. Photography and the lens changed many of the ways in which humans viewed themselves and the world around them. However, I think that every new technology and discovery does this to some extent. What did fascinate me, however, were the words that have remained from a time when light was used to represent the divine, the truth, the un-describable. Words such as ‘clarity (claritas – clear), reflection (reflectere – bend back), speculation (specere – to look), lucidity (lucidus – light) and idea (idein– to see)’ . May be this type of obsession with light representing the divine, explains our quick acceptance of photography as a staple medium.

Peeping Tom

The below pasted email is food for thought. This message to the MIT community is an interesting start for a project. Photography is often studied in relationship to voyeurism and many artists play with that notion of peeping. The film Blow Up (available on PlexTV) addresses this issue, amongst others, very well. It is a CLASSIC on photography and the role images play in our societies and psyche.

From: Andrew J Turco <aturco@mit.edu>

Subject: Crime Alert: Peeping Tom

Date: February 18, 2016 12:05:20 PM EST

To: all-campus <all-campus@mit.edu>

CRIME ALERT: Disorderly Conduct/Peeping Tom

Occurred: February 17, 2016 at approximately 7:30 PM

Location: Building 16, women’s restroom

Details:

The MIT Police Department is investigating a report of an individual who attempted to photograph a female party while she was in a bathroom stall in building 16.  On February 17, 2016 at approximately 7:30 PM, the MIT Police Department responded to a call concerning an unknown party taking a photograph of a person in a bathroom stall in building 16.  When the reporting party checked the bathroom, the suspect had already fled.  The responding officers did not encounter anyone in the area.  At this time it is unclear if the suspect is a male or female.

Police Response:

The MIT Police Department is providing extra checks of building 16.  The MIT Police Detectives are also investigating the incident.

Description:

There is no suspect description at this time.

Safety Information:

Members of the campus community are strongly encouraged to follow these safety tips to decrease their potential for becoming a victim:

  • Stay alert – call the police immediately to report suspicious activity.
  • Trust your instincts – if it does not feel right, call for help.
  • If you observe a person or situation that doesn’t appear to be normal, do not approach the subject and immediately call 617-253-1212 (or extension 100 from any campus phone).

Additional Information:

  • There is safety in numbers.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Program your cell phone with the MIT Police emergency number (617-253-1212). Please call this number if you become uncomfortable in any situation. DO NOT hesitate to call us.
  • Note the locations of the Blue Light emergency telephones on campus. Utilize them in case of an emergency.

See Something Say Something – call the MIT Police at 617-253-1212, or 100 in an EMERGENCY from any Institute phone. All 911 phone calls from cell phones go to the MA State Police in Framingham, MA, who then transfer the call to the Cambridge Police.

*If you have any information that might be helpful in this investigation, contact the MIT Police at 617-253-1212; or anonymously at 617-258-8477 (8-TIPS). If at any time you observe any type of suspicious activity or have been the victim of a violent crime, regardless of the location of the incident, please notify the MIT Police Department immediately at 617-253-1212.

The MIT Police Department wants to remind the MIT community that we are located in an urban setting and share many of the crime and safety issues that exist in any city. Community members should be vigilant while walking throughout campus and surrounding areas both during the day and at night and to take the appropriate precautions, such as walking with others and utilizing SafeRide.

Sgt. Andrew Turco

MIT Police Department

301 Vassar Street (W89)

Cambridge, MA 02139
617-253-1212

 

 

Interesting course at the MOMA in New York

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Launches Free Course on Looking at Photographs as Art

A new take on the “decisive moment”

For those who like street photography / Henri Cartier-Bresson … here’s a photographer (Peter Funch) has a series that I thought was really cool.

He makes his own decisive moments by shooting over the course of weeks, using the exact same location, focus, exposure, etc. then combines like photos in Photoshop. I thought the results were a refreshing twist on street photography – it’s surprising and humorous to see how many shared moments there are.

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You can find the whole series here.