Sunday, January 2, 2011

what the camera sees

By way of experimenting, I tried photographing at ground level today - not lying stretched out on the snowy driveway, but bending down with the camera in the snow, and pressing the shutter without any idea what would come out.   Of course, some of the results were clear and focused and technically fine - see below - but I rather preferred the ones where I was doing what one can't actually do with the viewfinder to one's eye - looking straight at the sun.

Even though the digital camera can't record, necessarily, anything brighter than pure, clear white, it's striking how unbearably glare-like this sun appears.   I was looking today at various paintings of St Paul on the road to Damascus - blinded by the light (yes, that is where Springsteen took that line from) and of course not really illuminated by the flash - not until Ananias healed him (and set him on his way to write various misogynist texts, though that's another story).   But it has come to stand for the prototype of divine light flashing down in order to make a spiritual intervention - and it's notable how few painters really show it as painfully bright, enough to fell a man.   The best, so far, is Caravaggio's version, who quite sensibly doesn't show the heavens lighting up at all, but instead depicts Saul/Paul writhing around on the ground in the full blast of God's bright rays (the horse seems fairly unperturbed, though may be about to put his hoof heavily down on him and make things even more painful).

I very much like the idea of the autonomous camera - the anonymous lens - leaving it to do its own business and then see what turns up when cold grasses turn into magical forests.

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