by adrianpark on September 24, 2011
[The progress of the project so far has been documented extensively in Evernote. This series of posts pulls together this documentation in a more coherent form and provides an account of the progress so far rather than the documentation itself]
In the course of my research for the essay mentioned in the previous post I discovered Renée Creager O’Brien’s PHD dissertation entitled The Post-Romantic Vision of Pinhole Photographery. I am not a pinhole photographer myself so upon reading her dissertation I discovered an approach and philosophy of photography that seemed to correlate very closely with what I was (or am) trying to achieve with the Poetic Camera.
In the abstract for the dissertation, O’Brien (1998) writes “pinhole photography is a medium that intimates time, mystery, intuition, reflection and a personal vision. It is an approach to imagemaking that creates images based on the flux and flow of occurrences. Its phantasmagoric qualities are closer to dreams than visual reality. Pinhole photography is a holistic process grounded in experimentation. In its method, it deconstructs the camera and image but rediscovers the magical ceremony.” (p.1) Ideas such as intuition, personal vision, holistic, experimentation, and deconstruction of the camera are all ideas and aims the Poetic Camera shares. O’Brien (1998) goes on to write in the introduction “in contemporary art making, the current application of pinhole photographs is an aesthetic choice of artist-photographers. These artists employ pinhole photography not as an art of imitation but as a subjective investigation of the phenomenal world.” (p.3) An “investigation of the phenomenal world” is very much one of the primary purposes of the Poetic Camera, and echoes Flusser’s thinking in Towards a Philosophy of Photography and The Gesture of Photographing (see previous post for more on Flusser).
O’Brien discusses in detail the distinct and unique qualities of pinhole photography both as an experience and also in terms of the resulting images. She highlights the typically long exposures required (p.171) and the qualities of the final image that many might regard as aberrations – for example distortion of perspective, an overall lack of sharpness and vignetting (p.234). These and other characteristics result in a process and results that are unpredictable and susceptible to chance. A high degree of mindfulness and intuition is necessary to succeed in producing interesting images.
It is my intention that continued study of O’Brien’s work and related texts will help to guide the development of the Poetic Camera. Without attempting to simply mimic the results of pinhole photography, I aim to embed the Poetic Camera with similar principles to encourage a creative process of experience and discovery. I will measure the success of the device on the following criteria:
- Does it afford an intuitive, subjective and phenomenological exploration of the world?
- Does it embody unpredictability and chance?
- Does it allow for personal vision and is this vision reflected in the results?
- Are the results aesthetically unique?
O’Brien, R (1998) The Post-Romantic Vision of Pinhole Photographers (Abstract to Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved 24 September, 2011, from http://www.cpalmer.biz/Membership/O’Brien,%20Renee%20Creager/obriendiss.doc
O’Brien, R (1998) The Post-Romantic Vision of Pinhole Photographers (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation). New York University, New York, United States of America.