The Image and Contemplation

Lentil Soup rightly places the lens at the centre of the image centric culture of today. Growing up in an age where the scale of inquire has been shaped by the microscope and the telescope, it is difficult to conceive of a perception devoid of scientific knowledge. The ability to create an image which exists but is imperceptible, and further use that vision to further our knowledge of the universe starts with Galileo and the lens. The lens plays only the role of facilitator, the use of the device depends entirely on the zeitgeist. It is possible to further expand the former statement. The usage of a photograph in the 1900s was very different from the possible usages of an image now. Besides the availability of a lens for production, in today’s world there are software which anticipate the image, and online platforms to politicise the image. We have arrived at a point in which we understand the world through these shared images, and relying less on actual experience. This endows the image with immense power. These platforms also negate the idea of an image as a neutral truthful object.

“This was startling because the Western world is, arguably, the be most visually sophisticated culture in recorded history.”

My criticism of this essay though is embodied in the quote above, where Coleman falls back on orientalist stereotypes, clubbing the West as a monolithic culture of immense visual sophistication. He seems to consider the lens as a device native to the ‘West’ but planted forcibly in the ‘East’ contradicting the accepted history of the lens which traces back to the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, further reformed by the medieval Islamic world. It is quite evident from the above example that even the origin of a supposedly neutral device can be distorted by socio-cultural biases. Can the lens and the image allow us to confront and preempt our biases? The body cams on police have succeeded in doing so, thereby taking contemplation on the image and film to a more sophisticated level. Currently interfacing with the image allows us to confront and modify reality.

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