Photography: In Isolation

by Beauchamp Art

In Isolation

Lens-based experimentation

This series of photos (or rather, this series of sets of photos) is a continuation of the ‘In Absentia’ dark lens experimentation series, but here I have used the camera quite differently. Rather than holding a magnifying glass in front of camera at various angles, I experimented with using the 52mm and the 85mm lenses. In addition to using these lenses with the low depth of field, more suited for close up and macro photography, I also took off the lenses, holding them in place in reverse – though I had a greater success with inverted 52mm lens, though did have produce some interesting images using the two together – with on reversed and the other held in front, with varying degrees of success.

In Isolation – Spectacles

In Isolation - Spectacles - VI

In Isolation – Spectacles – VI

Lens experimentation, focusing on my glasses reflecting and refracting the light from my computer screen in the dark.

‘Spectacles’ plays on the glasses as an object and the notion of a ‘spectacle’ being something to look at, where as here the focal point of the image is vague, and for the most part there is nothing definable to see, only an impression of the scene; two areas of morbidly undefined light in a quarter of the frame, for the most part the image there is nothing, only a lingering darkness that feeds no meaning to the picture, and only serves to further the obscurity.

Using my glasses is intended to be seen more metaphorically than just as something that reflects light, but rather something that focuses visual information, here failing that task, and being barely identifiable in the process. There is a certain irony in having an out of focus photo of a pair of spectacles, in that in order for them to become an object I could photograph; delicately adjusting the focus and angle of the lenses, I had to remove them from my person, rendering my vision somewhat blurred. In this irony there is an autobiographical element to the sub-set, which is furthered by what was being displayed on the computer screen at the time in order to illuminate the lens; and that was the list of my ‘Friends’ on the social network site ‘Facebook’; my contacts [a potential secondary pun; contacts/persons:contact lens, etc]. However, in these images, the clarity of this formalized list of ‘friends’ is also minimal, they all blur into one homogeneous mass of grey-blue light, the people become nothing but images, the images are broken down and loose their singularity; everyone becomes the same meaningless haze, to be scrolled through and mulled over in solemn placidity.

In Isolation – Keys

In Isolation - Keys - X

In Isolation – Keys – X

Lens experimentation focusing on my keyboard and the light emanating from my computer screen displaying explicit and social material.

In a number of these images I focused (literally, and metaphorically) on the “I” as a comment on ‘I’ as in the self, in isolation, despite being surrounded by the various keys, which could be personified as a crowd in which ‘I’ am lost, covered in a hollow darkness, out of frame and out of mind. The solitary ‘I’ brought to light by the synthetic physical exchanges of anonymous peoples; dead-eyed at climax, subjects before a camera, insignificant in amongst the countless other videos and images of similar sexed persons. I also focused more generally on the keyboard and computer, using the low depth of field to render the majority of the image out of focus, so that the viewer would be aware of what is being shown, but not being able to look at any thing of interest clearly; they are forced to focus on the secondary elements, the areas where nothing significant is taking place within the picture and the narrative of the scene.

I wanted to draw them away from the trivialities of a mundane scenario [pornography on a computer in the dark is not that obscure in a contemporary environment, though the darkness does add a sinister edge; an implicit want to hide, a shame or distancing of the self from the subject matter]; to take the eye an look at the subtle aestheticism that could so easily be overlook [much as one may not see the forest for the trees, one can miss the intricacies of the texture of bark and the life within the woodwork of the tree itself. A great deal is looked passed and ignored on a day-to-day basic, one has to to survive, but what is then remembered may not be of any real significance or interest anyway]. These macro experiments have a novel appeal, and in their novelty there is a further curiosity which I hope I have begun to explore effectively.

In Isolation – Familiar Faces

In Isolation - Familiar Faces - IX

In Isolation – Familiar Faces – IX

(The original photograph a self portrait.)

Lens experimentation focusing on my screen displaying images of individuals from Facebook
Two of the original photographs were self portraits (those of Kirstin and Bryony) and the third (of Henry) was from a photo originally taken by me (or to be more specific, taken from a GIF animation I made, a three frame slideshow of Henry, Kirstin, and Aaron eating lunch in the studio, each a high-resolution photograph that was compressed in the process of turning into and animation, then by being uploaded to Facebook, then in the cropping of the image, and the further reduction of the photo into the size of a small icon.

One encounters countless faces in life; in the street, in the media, in the internet [‘in’, not ‘on’, it is a non-place, effectively space-less, but it is not a one-dimensional plain as implied by saying ‘on the internet’, it is a world alongside the ‘real’ world, but equally constructed of physical elements, servers, computers, users; in constant fluctuation as electrical signals go here, there, and importantly; between – it is a tool of connections, it is the corridor one walks down with one foot in the door] – faces en masse, like grains of sand, become a singular mass – ‘friends’ like stones become warn down by the gradual erosion of time; whether through encountering new people, pushing the old out of mind, or through the decay of memory; the strange become familiar become estranged again. Much as with any form of development, whether social, technological, or both [such as with the internet and online social networks];

“Obsolescence is a natural counterpoint of innovation”  [P.83]

– Defleur, M. and Ball-Rokeach, S. (1989) Theories of mass communication. New York: Longman.

With anything new, the old must either become part of the evolution, or will be cast down and rendered redundant. Familiar faces become part of one’s future life, or will be slowly lost; the only traces of the person being the effect of the memory on the self, a contact in the phone-book, another number on one’s Facebook ‘friends list’

In Isolation – A Better Place

In Isolation - A Better Place - V

In Isolation – A Better Place – V

Lens experimentation focusing on camera screen displaying the video documentation of my ‘A Better Place, A Non Place’ performance.

In this set, I directed my lens towards another camera; specifically, the display screen on the digital video camera that recorded and was playing back my recent ‘A Better Place, A Non Place’ performance.

In Isolation – Digital Discord

In Isolation - Digital Discord - VIII

In Isolation – Digital Discord – VIII

Lens experimentation focusing on my screen as it displayed a still image from a glitched/malfunctioning amateur pornographic film.

Out of all of these sets, I believe these were the least successful, and the previous photos of these still I took [as part of ‘In Absentia’] worked more effectively as resolved images, nevertheless, they were useful experimentations.

Though I believe that using such found explicit materials as these as part of a working practice, as a means of commenting on how the social relationships one has are affected by technology, here; pornography as a sexual supplement/replacement, hyperbolically allegorising digital replacing physical interaction, I have to be aware that the use of sexual imagery may cause the work to be dismissed as indulgent eroticism in the name of bastardised art, or provocative for the sake of  being provocative (or grotesque for grotesque, once the images are suitably distorted). Much as Herbert Marcuse in ‘One Dimensional Man’ said that:

“Critical analysis must dissociate itself from that which it strives to comprehend; the philosophic terms must be other that the ordinary ones in order to elucidate the full meaning of the latter.”

– Herbert Marcuse, (1991). One-Dimensional Man. Routledge.

When using art as a means of critiquing culture, or stimulating debate, one does not want to simply express something that is undermined by its content, and by being too direct will deter the audience from attempting to understand a piece further and will just read it on face value; banalising the outcomes, rendering it meaningless asetheticism

In Isolation – False Intimacy

In Isolation - False Intimacy - IX

In Isolation – False Intimacy – IX

Lens experimentation focusing on my screen whilst displaying pornography.

Here I focused on a higher resolution film, and was primarily trying to juxtapose areas of sharp pixelation and blur, both of which made the image indecipherable to varying degrees, making it clear that these were photos of a computer playing a video, rather than just the bodies featured within the film. Hence I also included the interface around the video itself, such as the viewing statistics and other areas of the website; all obscured and half in focus, so the viewer is never fully aware of what they are looking at when examining a single image, or a section of that image, but can only gather a semblance of the content of the original source material by looking at the photographs in series. Indeed, I have examined distortion previously, in regards to distortion of images as well as the distortion of factual narrative; this set seems a fair synopsis and conglomeration of these ideas; as they are warped visual, and represent a fiction narrative; the ‘false intimacy’ of pornography.

Intentional distortion is symptomatic of post-modernism and contemporary life, or as Brian Eno poignantly said in 1996:

“Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit – all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided.”

Brian Eno, (1996),  A Year With Swollen Appendices: Brian Eno’s Diary. 1st Edition. Faber & Faber.

In Isolation – Unclear

In Isolation - Unclear - X

In Isolation – Unclear – X

Photos without a lens attached of and around my computer browsing the Internet.

There is a less, autobiographical factor to these images, and that is the lack of focus which I believe reflects my inability to focus on anything; as in going between tasks, having a short attention span (except when working compulsively) and an inability to focus on a particular way of working, or themes, or direction, or anything for that matter; and in a more literal sense, with wearing glasses, and having a some-what lazy eye, though this is more expanded upon in the ‘Spectacles’ set.

This totally unfocused set connects to a number of the images that play with large areas of abstract ambiguity, shapeless areas of tone and colour typical of the deliberate uncertainty apparent in much of the Contemporary arts. Historically, and image had to show something, now the image is something (in itself). What is shown and what is not are equally important, the overwhelming lack of clarity can be traced back to the sublime works of epic painters, such as John Martin, William Turner and so forth – but I would sooner site Hieronymus Bosch in my explorations of technology. In his apocalyptic depictions of damned souls being tortured in countless cruel ways, the individuals shown in the fiery teeth of Hell (such as in the third panel of ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights‘), one does not read the image as a collection of intricate illustrations, but rather as a representation of the atmosphere of a Christian Underworld as a whole. The doomed figures are like the cells and pixels of a computer screen (or the sounds in words), complete obscure when decontextualised, but this uncanniness becomes comprehensible when viewed as a whole – further stressing the importance of the use of a series in such ‘Unclear’ images as these – to be understood like a tale told through-and-through.

In Isolation – Autodidactic

In Isolation - Autodidactic - II

In Isolation – Autodidactic – II

Lens experiments, focusing, in part, on my self.

This set featured two photographs taken directly of my face, using a 52mm lens with a low depth of field, and two reprocessed images of myself. The two blue, especially pixelated images are a photos of my profile picture on Facebook, which is a distorted image of myself taken from a GIF animation, based on a film (the original ‘A Better Place, In this Twilight’).

Though these were more of quick experiments with the camera, they also reflect the counterpoint of the rest of the images ‘In Isolation’, in that that which is isolated is ultimately the individual whom is interacting with the digital interface; in other words me. As Oscar Wilde put it in his ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray‘;

“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”

– Oscar Wilde (1890), The Picture of Dorian Gray, Penguin Classics 2006

In all that I choose to document through photography, there will always be an autobiographic element embodied in the work produced. Though I hope that the work I produce is not wholly revolving around me, but rather I am to be seen as another individual in society, and as part of that human community I am a reflection of a part of it, and hope to focus that reflection through my lens to create work that both symbolic of society and myself as a part of it.

My art is a camera obscura, it is the pin hole through which the light of the world comes through, refracting and focused onto my canvas.

‘Autodidactic’ refers to this autobiography, and that the processes I am using with regards to photography are, for the most part, self-taught – and the process with which we use newfangled technologies and tools at large are frequently self-taught. The etiquette of “The Age of Mass Communication” is yet to be established.

“We live in a constantly changing society. Sometimes it is difficult to determine which changes are important. […] The television set and other media are innovations around which human beings organize their live in different patterns than has ever been the case in the course of our evolution.” [P.26]

Defleur, M. and Ball-Rokeach, S. (1989) Theories of mass communication. New York: Longman.

I suspect that the dominant new ‘media’ with which will be most critically and wholly integrated into society shall be social media networks – indeed, I believe it has already begun, in all aspects of our electronic lives.