Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Before the jury

This blog begins just as I am about to do jury service at the Old Bailey. There may, therefore, be a brief hiatus after these first few posts. In future I will say little or nothing about what I am doing because a)it's boring and b)it would give away what I am doing for The Sunday Times to be seized upon by villainous competitors who watch my every move.
No, my intention with this blog is to inspire thought, speculation and to create imaginary worlds. Thought experiments are used by philosophers, scientists - Einstein arrived at relativity by imagining what it would be like to sit on a beam of light - and, I think, all of us at one time or another - as in, for example, what if I didn't go to this stag party tonight? That last was another rare example of me saying what I am doing.
Anyway I begin with the question: what if the first camera ever made resulted in a picture that looked nothing like what we see with our eyes? This has troubled me for some time as I have always been amazed that photographs do make any sense at all. Is it because we built machines to reproduce what we see or is it because the world is really like that? And, anyway, do photographs look like what we see with our eyes? Comments and other ideas welcome.

7 comments:

  1. Visual immediacy is a problem. We all see too much and can only respond with a gradual dulling of the senses. Given that your camera is so brutally focussed on reality I therefore propose to accelerate this process by falling asleep. When I wake up, you will be drunk following a night of debauchery at your stag party and I expect this discussion to have been enlivened by a variety of images of you in interesting poses.

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  2. Photos. It is sometimes exhilarating to think that things looks as they do (a snowflake), sometimes sad eg ourselves in the morning mirror. But I think Appleyard's hope that photos are not as they seem suggest a wish for an alternative reality driven by a kind of dizziness (or even nausea) caused by the number of images to which we are subjected, our fixation on them, and - most of all - their failure to make sense of the world. Aldous Huxley said in the Doors of Perception I think that, after taking mescalin, he found himself mesmerised by images which meant nothing "the percept swallows up the concept." Now I am not suggesting that Appleyard...but there you go. Signed Wallace

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  3. Wallace, I suspect we're all a little drugged. I also suspect Appleyard's problem isn't simply the result of some dizzying discontinuity between the world, the senses and the intellect. He may want this camera he is inventing to capture different levels of perception, which is potentially tragic enough, though it offers consolation: the world imagined is the ultimate good. But the deeper question is, why? Whatever other realities develop as a result of this experiment, one would still need faith in one had seen to know it was true. Without faith, no new vision will release us from our interior world. This camera is about a search for God. Signed, Seditress

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  4. To some extent, cameras were designed to mimic the human eye. Thus, they have a lens to focus the light, and the light is absorbed by either a photographic emulsion, or, in the case of a digital camera, the surface of a CCD, which, like the retina in the human eye, changes state to register the pattern of light. However, whilst the human eye constantly updates the visual field, wiping out the pattern of light at previous times, a camera can take a cumulative exposure over a period of time. A time-lapse photo of, say, a motorway at night, yields an image in which the car-lights sweep out trails which the human eye never sees. In effect, a time-lapse photo projects four-dimensional space-time onto three-dimensional space, and then onto a two-dimensional image...

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  5. I have a vague memory of a biology lesson at school in which we were taught that everything is actually upside down, so our eyes have to turn it all the right way up in order for us to make sense of the world. So, perhaps, when you get photographs developed, you should look at them upside down, because that is what the world really looks like. Except? wouldn't we then be walking on our heads? J Cheever Loophole

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