So Long And Thanks For All The Photons.

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Light, as a physical entity, is the central material of  photography (It’s in the name of course; Photo = Light, Graph = To Draw). It is as dependant on it as ears are to the sound waves that reach them. It is almost so inconceivably ubiquitous that as an idea that has never truly been understood by most people, and i am certainly not claiming to be one of those people who do, that would be a gross over-estimation of my intelligence.

Light is made up of Photons. These are discrete packages of electromagnetic energy or a “quantum” as they are known, put simply, they are just coiled up bundles of energy. These as many people are aware are the particles that can naturally move at the speed of light, which is 2.998 x 108 m/s inside a vacuum, or free space. Which is bloody quick.

They are also subject to something called Wave-Particle Duality. This essentially means that while a photon acts as a particle, it simultaneously acts as a wave. This means that it is not only subject to the standard laws regarding particles, but it also has an amplitude, a wavelength and a frequency. This can be demonstrated by something called the Double Slit Experiment.

Interestingly, the gentleman with the beard in the video is called Mark Oliver Everett. Not only is he the lead singer and guitarist of the band EELS, but his father Hugh Everett III was the physicist who came up with the original hypothesis for the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. This idea of parallel possibilities in almost every single instant everywhere is certainly mind boggling.

But since photography fundamentally relies on photons to simply exist, and since photons are subject to these quantum laws that we have discussed, therefore photography is an inherently quantum event. Therefore for every single photograph ever taken there is an almost infinite number of parallel photographs. Not just based on perspective, composition and the image maker, but throughout all of the universe and time too.

Every time you take a photograph, you cause reality to shatter into a trillion and one pieces.

You Monster.

Jeff Wall

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I got a Jeff Wall book for christmas this year. And i have always been of the opinion that he is a fantastic photographer, so as an influence on me and as research for my project, i hear-by put some of his photos on my blog. As is always done in visual diaries/blogs.

One day Nietzsche and Bergson walk into a Bar…

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Comedy/Humour is something that is so important to me that i feel that attempting to writing it down would be an insult to it. But the actual reason behind comedy is a very strange one. It might sound peculiar to ask “Why do we laugh?” but when you think about it in an evolutionary sense there is no advantage or disadvantage to being able to find something amusing.

Many have hypothesised it to be a form of outward semiotic coding. As proto-humans lived in small communities and would often have to rely on other members of their tight social circle for basic needs and survival. To increase the bonds between them and to limit selfish behaviour, they would demonstrate emotional similarities to each other, using this to limit any chance of being excluded from the vital social network.

Henri Bergson the french philosopher, stated that as the above may suggest, laughter and humour are strictly human constructs:

“The first point to which attention should be called is that the comic does not exist outside the pale of what is strictly HUMAN. A landscape may be beautiful, charming and sublime, or insignificant and ugly; it will never be laughable. You may laugh at an animal, but only because you have detected in it some human attitude or expression. You may laugh at a hat, but what you are making fun of, in this case, is not the piece of felt or straw, but the shape that men have given it,–the human caprice whose mould it has assumed. It is strange that so important a fact, and such a simple one too, has not attracted to a greater degree the attention of philosophers. Several have defined man as “an animal which laughs.” They might equally well have defined him as an animal which is laughed at; for if any other animal, or some lifeless object, produces the same effect, it is always because of some resemblance to man, of the stamp he gives it or the use he puts it to.” (Bergson, Henri. Laughter: An Essay On The Meaning Of The Comic. Maryland: Arc Manor, 2008).

However these natural/evolutionary ideas fail to account for another side of humour. The taking pleasure in others misfortune, or as its more commonly known, Schadenfreude.

Nietzsche said that laughter at another’s misfortune was illegitimate. It is not from anything you have done to deserve the laughter, you have simply won a victory by default.

This is an idea that is quite pertinent to my current project. The murderer of the inventors taking a perverse delight and enjoyment in the suffering and demise of those he as decided must be punished. This would then of course contradict Nietzsche’s interpretation of schadenfreude as an undeserved burst of pleasure. After all, as a man jilted by his peers who then may have very well taken enjoyment from his misfortune, have now fallen victim to their own laughter. As it has now been flipped and is now enacted upon them. Say what you want about the murderer, but he definitely deserves his revenge.

The Death of the Darkroom.

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Am I a Luddite? Have i perhaps been too quick to rule out digital as an exciting and versatile medium of photography?

I’ve always loved the darkroom environment as a place to be. An almost claustrophobic deep silence that is only broken with the occasional chaos of first years printing franticly two days before a crit session, the tactile response of the paper as you watch your image begin to surface from the white into black. It is a deeply meditative experience. However, recent experiences have caused me to consider a new route through my masters degree, one in which digital would be the key player.

I’ve recently been troubled by this question for a number of reasons.

Firstly, cost. As of February 1st 2011, due to a large increase in the market price of silver, Ilford photographic have increased the prices of their paper by 20%. Meaning that a box that would have cost £70, now costs closer to £95 with the VAT increase. This was already an expensive paper before but now it is fast approaching unaffordable, not to mention that each large format negative (a singular photograph) costs anything from £1.75 for a sheet of black and white, all the way up to £3.20 a sheet for a colour (C41).

Secondly, Innovation. It has struck me more than ever during this project that while an expertly printed black and white or colour chemical print is still pretty special, working in digital allows for a much greater flexibility in how work is made and/or presented. From television screens to digital projectors, it rides the crest of the current technology wave. Chemical printing on the other hand has barely advanced in 120 years, with people still having petty arguments over whether you can put a colour image inside a black frame, or even if you can put black and white images with colour images.

However the reliability of the chemical process is not in question, a fibre based black and white print can last for 50+ years without any real damage providing the appropriate measures are taken. Digital on the other hand claims to be able to last 30 years, but since the technology hasn’t been around that long, it’s still a case of wait and see. Plus digital images can be easily replicated, used without permission or even stolen with a terrifying ease thanks to the internet. There is of course the problem of a ubiquitous hard drive failure, and who knows where technology will be in another 15 years?

So, I am left with an unpleasant decision to make. Should I continue my current practice, and risk becoming obsolete before my time? Or try a very uncertain, and very risky last minute shift into digital. Hmm.

The link below is to a video on the Guardian website. It features a photographers project about the decline in chemical darkrooms. ‘Tis Good.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/video/2011/jan/14/photographing-death-darkroom-video?INTCMP=SRCH

Murder #2. Nicephore Niepce

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“So fickle a thing can a creation be. A champion of your virtues and endeavours of which you have come to rely. And yet, not without irony does it also become the mode of your decent. An old man to begin his studies, he was to surely not to live to see them fulfilled? A meagre slip on a wet floor or a strong hold would see to his demise. A searing burn in his eyes and nostrils as the pernicious chemicals fill them. Spluttering under a forceful grip, he fades. Here lies Nicephore Niepce!”

More referenced Works

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In each of the images that i am to create, there will (hopefully) be another work of art, a myth or an event that it references. I have already shown you examples of these references, such as my previous horror post and my Le Jetée post. But, here are a few more for you to consider.

Conversion on the way to Damascus, Caravaggio (1601).

 

The Assassination of Julius Caesar

 

Prometheus and his punishment from the gods.

 

The Cinematic trope of a woman tied to railways tracks.

 

Benjamin Franklin flying his kite during a storm.

 

The Oriel Window, Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot (1835).

 

http://www.myspace.com/video/petergreenaway/windows/245449

Windows, Peter Greenaway (1973).

(Wouldn’t allow embedding, but it’s worth a look).

La Jetée

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La Jetée, for those of you who are unaware, is a film made in 1962 by Chris Marker. Made (almost) entirely from still photographs, it tells the story of a prisoner in a post-apocalyptic Paris, who is selected by the rulers of this new underground world for experimentation.

He meets the head scientist who reveals to him that the world is dying and there is no-one alive that can help them. But they have developed a way to travel through time, what they need is person with a strong mental connection to the past to avoid a loss of sanity, and they have selected him. He is troubled by a memory from his childhood, having seen a man being shot before a beautiful woman at the airport.

With the strength of this memory,  they manage to send him back in time to retrieve a source of medicine and food for the people of his time.

He however becomes attached to a woman he has met in the past, and when the scientists who sent him there have achieved their goals, they decide that he is expendable. He manages to escape however with help from the humans of the future, and return to his love, on the jetée at Orly airport in Paris. Then everything falls into place, the woman, the jetée and his end.

This film is one of my all time favourites, which i appreciate in photographic circles is perhaps a bit of a cliché as a film made from almost entirely still images, but to hell with it. Thanks to photography i can’t even enjoy Camera Lucida anymore.

Heres the film for those of you who haven’t seen it.