Friday, 26 November 2010

Diana's new glasses

Not that her vision isn’t perfect already, but I decided Diana could do with changing her way of seeing now and again. This week they arrived: telephoto and extra-wide angle lenses designed especially for my 100% plastic Diana camera. I can’t wait to start playing with them, and will post the results here when my film has been processed, in a few weeks.

I have to believe in delayed gratification in my analogue photo world. Overall, the lengthy process has some interesting side-effects. When I go to pick up my prints, never quite remembering what I have shot on that particular roll of 120 film, I am invariably disappointed by at least a third of the shots. Heads are chopped off, views are half-blocked by Diana’s looming lens, and over or under exposure completely changes the view I thought I had captured. I sigh and shove these to the back of the green envelope.

Coming back weeks or months later, having forgotten them, it’s often the images at the back that I like the most. They seem to change as the time since the shutter click lengthens. As they become detached from my original intention they become more beautiful and interesting. I suppose they become images in themselves, instead of failed representations of something else. Since they are no longer failing, I take them as they come and I like them.

Representation in art is a funny thing. If the artist says so, then a lollipop stuck in a pincushion is just as much a representation of Kate Middleton as is the inevitable realistic portrait that will be painted of her. One resembles her, the other doesn’t, but if the artists both intend it they both represent her. (Now I think of it, a lollipop stuck in a pincushion is perhaps not such a bad metaphorical representation of Kate M in her new life.)

Likewise an object can resemble another without representing it. The example trotted out in many an aesthetics seminar is that of ants crawling across a beach, which as they surge just happen to make the face of, say, Che Guevara. We test our intuitions by asking, does that insect formation represent Che, in the same way the print on a Che Guevara t-shirt does? The argument begins; is representation about meaning for the viewer, or creator’s intention? Neither? Both? What if there’s no resemblance, and/or no meaning for the viewer (only an alien sees the ants from his flying saucer, oblivious to the existence of Che Guevara)? And so on.

Then this wonderful photograph turned up in most UK papers this week of flamingos in flamingo formation (image courtesy of the Guardian).

They didn’t do it on purpose, but we get double-flamingo (flamingo-go? Probably the Sun caption, I didn’t bother to check). It’s hard to get our heads round the idea that the formation itself (rather than the photo of it) is a resemblance but not a representation. Unless flamingos are even more surprising than we knew.

If I could attribute intentions to Diana, I still wouldn’t be able to say what hers are exactly. I just hope she likes her new glasses as much as I do.

1 comment:

  1. Have fun with the new lenses, Zoe! I'm sure we'll see some great photos.