Photography: In Absentia
by Beauchamp Art
Photos around my computer focusing on my ways of interacting and interfacing; my glasses, hands, the keyboard, etc., using a standard zoom lens and a magnifying glass [tilted].
For this selection of photographs, I wanted to experiment with ways of generating imagery using a computer as a medium, whether that be the images on the screen, the light emitted, the subsequent illuminations and reflections, or some combination thereof.The title of this series, ‘In Absentia’ come from the Latin meaning ‘In the absence of…’ here the absence is of another person to interact with, substituted with a computer, as well as referencing the inherent ‘absence’ of light in darkness. I chose to use the Latin as it carries historical connotations that contrast to the modern materials, and correlates with numbering of the series in Roman Numerals [I, II, III…] as opposed to the more common Arabic number sequence [1, 2, 3…], as I find the use of numerals more formal, and provide for more aesthetically pleasing titles. I could have subtitled every individual piece, but I found this would deter from the idea of a ‘series’, detracting from the narrative between the photographs. The title also came after a subsequent series of photos ‘In Isolation’ [more lens experiments], and was a precursor to the ‘In Silence’ photo series, based around a hearing aid and the computer screen [electronic communicators].
Between Two Opposing Forces, Progression and Regression
Photo of a computer screen displaying a corrupt/glitched figure from an amateur pornography, depicting 3 individuals engaging in sexual intercourse. (Removed from series)
I began by simply photographing the screen itself whilst it displayed provocative images, initially this was glitched pornographic stills taken from online websites, decontextualised and presented as an valid image in its own right, either to be used as a reference for something else (such as a painting, et cetera) or in this case, to be re-photographed on the screen, so that the image captured was not the straight-forward (albeit distorted) explicit source image, but rather a photo of how the viewer would see the image; displayed on a screen, fractured though the cells and pixels of the monitor, with the innate distortion due to the low resolution of the source image being enlarged on the screen, then further enlarged through the camera lens. Moreover, as the first few images were taken during the daytime, some of the external ambient light affected the display of the image (not in a noticeable way to a viewer, but visible in the photos).
These further distortions envelope the flawed nature of digital interface, and how when it is used as a substitute for something physical, something more ‘real’ in the traditional sense, though as reality can only be perceived through an individual’s mind (and seen only through eyes, one ultimately views representations equally to the authentic subject matter), than the reality of such interaction is – as it is a cognitive process either way – as ‘true’ whether one imagines oneself in a scenario (i.e., watching pornography) as being directly engaged with the event (i.e., having sexual intercourse).
What seems to be an ambivalent area of interest is the notion of choosing the simulation over the authentic (like choosing to eat something that is flavoured like something else, rather than the thing it is flavoured to be like) – whether this is due to the individual’s circumstance, preference or environment to which one has become accustomed to. In this escapism, the fantasy world may become more real in one’s eyes than the real world, or at least be (perceived to be) preferential.
This could be seen as lapsing in the realm of addiction to the artifice, whether this is with online environments: pornography, social media, and similarly with online games [especially MMORPGs – Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, a famous example being World of Warcraft, which has numerous warning tales surrounding its potential addictiveness], though escapism is a broad subject in itself – there are whole areas of literature, film, and other entertainment media dedicated to this – however here, the concern I wished to address was the digital : physical boundary and the impact that has on the individual within society, whether in terms of identity, social perception, or otherwise engaging with the “Ethnology of Solitude”.
All these escapes speak of an existentialist awareness of the unsolvable flaws in life, and the need to distract oneself from the ultimate ephemeral nature of being mortal, that death always looms, and that one is perpetually alone inside one’s own head, however much one tries to escape or deny this fact – through social interaction, overloading oneself with meaningless information or mind numbing routine; a self induced DoS (Denial of Service) attack, self harming in willful ignorance to the incomprehensibility of existence.
Furthermore, I chose to use images of pornography on the screen in a darkened room as a juxtaposition of populated scenes of physical exchange, and the implicit metaphorical isolation of darkness (though there is some irony here, as in darkness one is both placeless and everywhere, no one and everyone, imprisoned and liberated.).
Photos of the screen
The specific pages I used where from a free miscellaneous pornographic website, featuring the most viewed and highest rated videos (as all videos receive feedback and ranking from the viewers; as well as featuring a comments section, which seems a strangely social side to the relatively private acted of watching and responding to pornography – I may return to this for a later investigation), as a fair way of representing the most popular videos at that time (the ranking is based on a monthly average, so the popularity also reflects the fashions and preferences of the audience in the current climate.
All these statistical considerations and the implications thereof and no doubt overlooked, for the most part, as they tell the audience nothing of interest to them; they want the consequence of this analysis in order for the website to provide for them a form of entertainment or service, the implications of the rise and fall of particular themes or motifs within the videos themselves in terms of their popularity, and the reasons for these shifts (such as something present in popular media) are more the concern for the website owners and advertisers than the audience themselves – if they are on a pornographic website, then they probably want to watch porn – whether the Spearman’s Rank Correlation Coefficient can be used to see whether the mean average popularity of particular fetish videos coincides with the release of ‘50 Shades of Grey’ is of little interest to the viewer. [Though the use of Google Trends can be used to compare the number of searches including certain terms, like ‘Bondage’ with the release and rise in popularity of that aforementioned erotic novel, which may indicate a certain coalescence between the two – within certain geographic locations, et cetera]).
All of these irrelevances aside, the photos themselves are relatively minimalist, highlighting the contrast between light and dark, with only the faint blues emanating from the screen in general, and the occasional ruddy tone reflecting off the darkened surfaces.
The final few of the screen from various angles are further explorations in the distorting effect of the computer screen, both aesthetically, and metaphorically.
(Mostly removed from the final series)
By attaching a magnifying glass [held in place] at an angle to the front of a DSLR set to the minimum depth of field – as well as creating a tilt-shift effect – I was able to photograph the light coming from a screen displaying pornography and social media, onto a room void of other illumination, capturing the textures of the immediate environment around the computer, the computer itself, and myself in a variety of interesting ways which have set the course for further photographic exploration.
Photos of the Glasses
A recurring feature of this series [and shall be a recurring element] was the photographs focusing on my glasses/spectacles, or more specifically, focusing on the reflection of light on the lenses. Not only do these reflections result aesthetically stimulating images, but also serve as an effective metaphor for the individual’s interaction and relation with that which is reflected – in this case, pornography, serving as a exposure or confession of a private act, a simulation of a interpersonal engagement.
But also have a treble meaning as they are not the eyes of the person but rather the visual aid, the second set of eyes, another filter through which reality is distorted under the guise of clarity, to see the world in a set way how everyone else does, sharp and defined, with the mystery of ambivalence dissolved, collective reality is the only reality, individual thought is the irrelevance we all must go through to participate in society, we must overcome the ego, put on the glasses that hide our eyes and bring the world into a certain focus.
A further motivation for the concentration on my glasses is the autobiographical content therein, for the intimate relationship this object has with me [they are almost constantly in physical contact with my face, and are only removed when sleeping or other rare occasions], and that I have the literal inability to focus my eyes, and the less direct lack of focus in my wider life; such as having a short attention span, etc.
The abstract shapes formed through looking through the side of the lens, with the refracted images warped into red and white blurs, half in focus but totally unclear, were a particularly successful example of this series. Moreover, because of the use of the external magnifying glass to increase the macro effect of the photos, and this extra lens being imperfect, scratched, and held unevenly, there was another interesting prism effect around some areas of light – such as on one of the images of the glasses, with the bridge between the two spectacles illuminated by the screen, the white light is vividly split into red, green, and blue.
I am the voyeur, this interaction is routine, and I think nothing of it. In this private solitude I am free to do nothing or anything within the constraints of my self imposed digital boundaries. Here, one can choose to simulate the human interactions one would normally expect to experience in the flesh; communication, exchange, sex. These are reduced to a binary exercise, a series of screens one gazes onto; not even windows to peer through, as there is nothing on the other side – there is no other side.
Together, we are alone.
In summary, this has been a particularly successful beginning to my new work, using experimental photography as a means of exploring and as a metaphor for the ambiguity of man/machine interaction and the ethnology of solitude, using a technique that feeds my themes and expands my practice in a refined manner, taking the successful experiments further and not dwelling for too long on ideas that I thought were not worth developing.
View the full series here: In Absentia