Photos: Unreliable Eye
by Beauchamp Art
This series was primarily an experimental series exploiting optical effects, foremost; bleeding a red light directly into the exposed camera sensor, with the lens removed, held slightly away from the camera, with a loose glass fish-eye lens positioned in front of the sensor, so the light could refract through the side of the glass without completely overloading the sensor, whilst the camera was calibrated to saturate more blue tones to compensate for the red light. I used myself as a subject as I was an available figure and it seemed fitting to turn the camera on the observer, who is also the camera operator. Nevertheless, this was practically somewhat complicated, as the camera was in parts whilst in use, so had to be held together by hand; dealing with the camera’s functions, the titling of the lens, the exposure of the red light, focusing, and positioning the subject. However, as this was mostly done as a test series, than the significance of the object before the camera was secondary to the process of obscuring and distorting the image; a camera obscured.
Moreover, due to the unusual light conditions, the amount of RAW adjustments and post-production necessary for each image was considerably greater than with more plain images. The first problem was that the images I had taken had a distinct red-blue tonality to them, when previewed on the camera and in a browser. However, when they were opened for editing in Camera RAW, they were distinctly more orange and green, so I had to find ways of compensating for the saturation problems in each image. I could have started editing in RAW, then opened each image in Photoshop to further modify the colours, and manually adjusted the areas of contrasting tonality, however, I felt that these would diverge too strongly from the original photographic exercise (even if I were to try to get them to be the original red-blue tonality.) As I wanted the mediation to be analogue, accomplished through physical interventions between the camera’s sensor and the subject, rather than a photo-manipulation, which may potential be modified with countless minor alterations (enough of this was had in RAW editing) and thereby corrupting the purpose of the image as an optical, rather than digital, experiment. The modifications I made to the image could, in theory, also be made to the organic eye (though it would possibly involve a small amount of surgery to gain access to the inside of the eye, between lens of the outer eye and the light-sensitive cones on the rear of the eyeball that send the information down the retina to the brain) and further manipulations would be sever the image from what was seen too strongly (as if deliberately misremembering and gradually accepting the hallucinatory memory as one’s own truth.)
Since the images are auto/self-portraits, colloquially known as ‘selfies’ (The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year [Oxford, 2013]) the ‘Unreliable Eye’ in question could be considered to be not only that of the camera, as may otherwise be implied; that or a generic eye – but rather one’s own eye, the critical gazer turned self-reflective. The self-portrait is not necessarily a product of narcissism or masochistic self-loathing, but curiosity and self-querying; an act of confirming one’s doubts. The obscurity of the image may infer that something within the frame wishes to be concealed, but also that the photographer wishes to draw attention to the act of concealment within the image, and how the viewer may be mislead.
The auto-portrait is also subject to an automatic and unavoidable explicit autobiography; and thus I must question my own motive for choosing to enact manipulation over an image and therefore a potential audience. My vision is imperfect; all human vision is, there is not ‘perfect’ way of seeing; there are an infinite number of perspectives, and a limited range of light frequencies that any organic or mechanical system can detect at any given time to produce a single comprehensible image. As a individual who is concerned with mediation, both on an visual and informational level, then it is only fitting that even my first act of looking is altered; hindered; modified; as I am one of those numerous people who wear glasses, and do so throughout the day, as I always have things to look at. As the visual culture prioritises vision, there is little time available to not see everything in the highest clarity available. I have recently undergone an eye test and have acquired a new pair of glasses. These are an object that will be intimately positioned directly in my eye line; resting upon the bridge of my nose and the tops of my ears; impressing on a multiple sense simultaneously.
They are a necessary mediation that gives clarity rather than subdues it, and are the one of the most basic physical extensions of man that may make him superhuman to his natural state. A more extreme example of such an improvement over the inert human form is the car, which “more than any horse, it is an extension of man that turns the rider into a superman.” [McLuhan, 1964: 221] An individual does not see themselves as part of the car they are encapsulated in, nor vice versa, a distance between the object and the subject is understood, but wilful ignored for the sake of practicalities (or every time one interacts with any machine, the individual would have an identity crisis; humans know where the body ends and the artificial extension begins – though this becomes a more complicated issue when discussing implants or cybernetics, then the psychological self is readily extended over non-human parts) much as I am aware that I am wearing glasses, but although they are not biologically integrated into me, they form part of my surface identity, and are my means of seeing, and thereby interacting, with the world around me. However, as I am aware that “any extension, whether of skin, hand, or foot, affects the whole psychic and social complex” [McLuhan, 1964: 4] then I have to accept that I am looking through lenses to see, but simultaneously ignore the fact, so as to not become obsessed with the physical frame; or to be too aware of the mediation.
McLuhan, Marshall (1964) Understanding Media. 1994 Edition. Routledge. Great Britain.
Oxford Dictionary Blog. (2013) Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013. [Online] http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/press-releases/oxford-dictionaries-word-of-the-year-2013/