Simulacra and Simulations: Debord and Baudrillard

Imitation, fake bags, artificial realities, looking at both photography and cinema.
Computer technologies, areas in our everyday lives – weather forecasting and gaming.

Sean Cubitt on ‘simulation’

‘a copy without a source, an imitation that has lost its original’.

And he adds that: ‘the theory of simulation is a theory about how our images, our communication and our media have usurped the role of reality, and a history of how reality fades’.

Sean Cubitt, Simulation and Social Theory, London: Sage, 2001, p.1.

  • Replication of reality.
  • Image comes to dominate after the first world war. Society of spectacle.

Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (1967)

‘all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation’.

Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (1967), Exeter: Rebel Press, 1987, s.1.

  • Idea of false.

Gucci ad campaign


  • Commodity rather than the actual object, not based on how well it can carry stuff.

‘Simulacrum’ and ‘Simulation’

A ‘simulacrum’ is defined as:

‘1. any image or representation of something.

  1. a superficial likeness’ (Collins dictionary).

‘Simulation’, though involves more than simply imitation and can be defined as:

‘1. The action or practice of simulating with intention to deceive; false pretence.

  1. A false assumption or display … a surface resemblance or imitation, of something.’ (OED).
  • Decline of reality, pushing ideas, reality as dessert.

Baudrillard’s ‘Simulacra and Simulations’ (1981)

If once we were able to view the Borges fable in which the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up covering the territory exactly (the decline of the Empire witnesses the fraying of this map, little by little, and its fall into ruins, though some shreds are still discernible in the deserts …and rotting like a carcass … as the double ends by being confused with the real through aging) – as the most beautiful allegory of simulation …

Sean Cubitt – on Baudrillard and reality

‘reality itself has been so profoundly altered by its infection and ultimate integration into spectacle that there is no outside, no remaining reality, to compare the simulation with.’

Sean Cubitt, Simulation and Social Theory, p.42.

  • Image of the product replaces life itself.

Jean Baudrillard ‘Simulacra and Simulations’

Baudrillard sees the rise of simulacra as occurring in four stages in the evolution of the image:

  1. It is the reflection of a basic reality.
  2. It masks and perverts a basic reality.
  3. It masks the absence of a basic reality.
  4. It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum.
  • Create their own reality.

The ‘hyperreal’

Baudrillard defines the hyperreal as the realm of ‘the hallucinatory resemblance of the real to itself’.

Baudrillard, cited in Cubitt, Simulation and Social Theory, London: Sage, 2001, p.46.

  • Can refer to the Gucci ad campaign; super glossy, reality can’t compete with it.

The ‘desert of the real’

Cubitt explains that ‘the real itself has died’, but that ‘the image of the real has been resurrected posthumously in the form of images and stories, the mass media production of data and evidence, news and ‘objectivity’ in place of the dead real’.

Sean Cubitt, Simulation and Social Theory, p.52.

  • Displaced by adverts, cyberspace, world of the hyperreal. Element of exaggeration, ad dominates our lives.

Disneyland Park, Florida.


  • Infantile
  • Simulation, America is Disneyland – Disneyland masks the reality of America.
  • Artificial reality.
  • Baudrillard claims that Disneyland exists as a simulation that is ‘there to conceal the fact that it is the “real” country, all of “real” America, which is Disneyland’.
  • Disneyland exists, Baudrillard claims, ‘to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation’. Baudrillard, ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, p.172.
  • Examples of the journeys you can make within the space of one city. Simulations of different areas around the world.

Ski Dubai

  • Massive environmental cost, real snow, penguins in a -4 degree simulated environment.
  • The reality of what it looks like from the outside, massive air conditioned building.
  • Part of one of the biggest shopping centres in the world. Mass Consumerism.

Seagaia Ocean Dome Miyazaki, Japan.


  • Guarantee of safety, a risk-free environment.
  • Paradox.
  • Disturbed relationship with reality.
  • Simulation and what it relates to next to each other.

Andreas Gursky

  • Simulating the land.
  • Fits into the art market.

Reiner Riedler, Fake Holidays, 2009.

  • Alternative reality.
  • Making it clear it’s not real.
  • No sense the people in the images believe they’re somewhere else.

Zilla van den Born

“I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media–we create an ideal world online, which reality can no longer meet . . . My goal was to prove how common and easy it is for people to distort reality. Everyone knows that pictures of models are manipulated, but we often overlook the fact that we manipulate reality also in our own lives.”
Zilla van den Born, 2014.

Discussion point – Zilla van den Born’s fake holiday.

  • What are the most interesting issues raised by this example?

The way it is possible for people to create a fake reality, in the days before photoshop and editing technologies this wouldn’t be possible, but now we can fabricate any reality we want with the right skills and software on our computer. The goes against what the photograph was meant to be in the beginning; what once was meant to be used as evidence can now be used to essential lie.

  • What does it tell us about our sense of self-identity and the role of social media?

There is a pressure for people to have an adventurous and interesting lifestyle, people don’t tend to put everyday things on social media. People want to look the best version of themselves on social media, and this sometimes means faking a more luxurious lifestyle than they do.

  • What does it tell us about our relationship with reality and the role played in that by the photograph?

Reality and the photograph can now be disconnected, we don’t have to show the real in images anymore, we can create our own. This makes the relationship very complicated between the real and the photograph.


The Truman Show (Dir. Peter Weir, 1998).

  • Replaces his original life. Baby adopted by a company, grown up in a TV show.
  • Real world – part of the Disneyworld site, artificle.
  • Commercial links.

The Matrix (1999)


  • Makes a direct reference to Simulacra and Simulation.
  • Reality of a simulation.
  • Computer technologies central.

Discovery of Lascaux caves, Montignac, France, September 1940.

  • 30,000 years old collection of images found in a cave.
  • Able to travel back in time.
  • Mould started to appear after human interaction.
  • An artificle cave was made next door to it, 90% likeness to the original cave.
  • Number 4 planned to be a full simulation of the entire cave. Full body experience.

Thomas Demand

  • Models out of paper.
  • Cardboard, based on a postcard of a grotto.
  • Simulation of being inside a grotto.
  • Relationship with nature.

Joan Fontcuberta, Fauna, 1987.

Fontcuberta writes that: ‘We experience the contemporary world as a series of overlapping simulacra’, and that ‘appearances have replaced reality’.  Fontcuberta writes of the ‘naivety’ of the common belief that ‘every photograph is evidence’ and describes his project in terms of demonstrating how photography is constructed: ‘photography does not lie’, he says, ‘but photographers certainly do’.

Joan Fontcuberta, Pandora’s Camera, London: Mack, 2014, p.7-8.

  • Authenticity
  • Naturalist recording, drawings and sound.
  • Created a narrative – they found all the work and are just displaying it.

Joan Fontcuberta, Orogenesis, Pollock, 2002.

‘The process of mountain formation, especially by a folding and faulting of the earth’s crust.’
Joan Fontcuberta, Landscapes without Memory, New York: Aperture, 2005.

Using a topographic computer program that converts map contours into three-dimensional images, Fontcuberta has scanned landscape paintings and photographs, then used the program to select an alternative viewpoint from within the digital scan to make a new work from the old.

Joan Fontcuberta: Stranger than Fiction, exhibition guide, Science Museum, London, 2014.

  • Sublime.
  • Landscapes no one has seen before.
  • Simulation of a landscape working with existing data.
  • Landscaped with no memory.

Fontcuberta writes that he was concerned with two issues:

  1. ‘the way in which the refinement of these programmes threatens the iconic status of the photograph as a literal transcription of reality’
  2. ‘the crisis of landscape in art and photography – the loss of landscape as place and its environmental destruction’.

Fontcuberta, Landscapes without Memory, NY: Aperture, 2005, p.5.

‘These are landscapes without memory, without history: nothing has happened in them …’.

Fontcuberta, Landscapes without Memory, p.7.

Geoffrey Batchen

Geoffrey Batchen observes that the results ‘are surprisingly similar’, regardless of the source of the image, and that the programme seems to know what kind of spectacular, unconquered landscape that we prefer. The outcome is a mix of nature and art, but Batchen says the result is ‘indeterminate’: ‘neither art nor nature, his landscapes are a simulacrum of both’. Reality, he adds, is ‘left out of the representational equation altogether and is thereby cast into doubt’.

Geoffrey Batchen, ‘Photography by the numbers’, in Fontcuberta, Landscapes without Memory, p.9-10.
Batchen, ibid. p.10.

Joan Fontcuberta, Sputnik, 1997.

  • Secret soviet space program that failed, secret tragedy.
  • Simulated photography implicated in truth, can lie to us.
  • Some are too ridiculous and excessivlely humorous, interesting ideas can get lost.

Cristina de Middel, The Afronauts, 2012.

  • I started researching true stories people don’t believe and fake stories they do. If you play around with reality, it gives a completely different dimension to the idea of photography as a document. Normally, photography is understood as being true: we assume nothing is manipulated, especially if it’s in a newspaper.
  • One day, on a trawl of the internet, I came across a YouTube interview with Edward Makuka Nkoloso, leader of the short-lived Zambian space programme in the 1960s. I couldn’t believe it was real – then I realised I was in the very situation I wanted to set up. I became aware of my own prejudice, in thinking Africa couldn’t possibly go to space. It also brought home the fact that the continent is often treated unfairly by the media: most news pictures we see from Africa show war and suffering, even though there are other things going on.
  • Cristina de Middel, interview The Guardian, 11 June 2014.
  • Done in Spain, borrowed space suits.
  • More lyricle.
  • Reseached true stories and fake ones.
  • Wanted it to have credibility.
  • Small production, just the images in the book.

Essential Reading: Baudrillard, Jean, ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, in Baudrillard, Selected Writings, Polity (2001).




Dronework II

Photographers and the connection to technology, past compared to how we use technology now. They become a part of our body, the intimate relationship between humans and technologies.

Trevor Paglen, Drone Vision, 2010

“The vast majority of the images are the drones targeting, practicing looking at roads very methodically, but there are a few moments where a drone looks around, looks up, looks at its surroundings. So it’s like this drone is lost, looking at the world around it.”

Attribute human characteristics to animals, we do the same thing with technology.

Mechanic vision – new relationship between humans and technology.

Example – when you pick up and object such as a marker, changes both yours and the markers natures. You could do something different that I couldn’t before.

‘The drone as a distributed system of sentience, memory, and communication based on the calculation (and transformation) of information.’ Johnston, p46

  • All the people that are involved with the drones.

The drone as an incarnation of distributed perception: ‘processes of decentralized soft assembly in which mind, body, and world act as equal partners in determining adaptive behavior’. Clark, p68

  • Distributed between lots of people.

When does the human end and the technology begin?

Omer Fast, 5000 Feet is the Best, 2011

Technology and psychological problems after being a drone operator and targets relationship. Equal to those active in combat. More directly involved, can see it.

5000 feet above the site, they can see the shoes of the people below.

‘The distance that’s compressed is prima facie optical, and is interesting in as much as the technology involved – scopes, cameras, heat sensor, satellites, etc. – can be seen as virtual extension of the operator’s body, much like a prosthetic or cyborg. But where it gets even more interesting and messy is when you consider the psychological effects this prosthetic compression has on the person operating the machine.’ Omer Fast

virtual extension – Something you cannot see with your own eyes, very much like we use our iPhone, virtual extension of the body.

prosthetic compression – Inhabits the drone, becomes the drone.

Relationship between 5×4 camera and your body for example, you have to change and adapt for the technology.

How this connects to our own practice, embodying the technology.

Agency – ability to act in the world.

Drone operators are usually young and in their 20s, need the reactions, a lot of the time are gamers. Can go for weeks not seeing anything then get the order to kill.

Agency is different with and without camera, different entity.

“These actors operate at various scales and levels of complexity, whether at the level of hardware, software, image, data, controls, or flight or ground crews, or at the scale of logistical support service, or operator and maintenance training. The affiliations that they constitute are practices as much as object-configurations, systems as much as parts.”

Crandall, Jordan (2013). ‘Ontology of the Drone’ in Drone: The Automated Image. Paul Wombell, ed. Bielefeld, Germany: Kerber Verlag, pp196-206.

[image: the Global Hawk Operations Center at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center]

Targeting based on video games, drones based on video games.

Drone operators are treated by using exposure therapy – also based on video games.

What they see is very much like a video game.

Back and forth between military and video game designers.

The drone’s systems of operation also include certain representational conventions – the dominant one being the video game, with its familiar modes of cognitive and affective engagement…

‘Ground control stations, training simulations and video games occupy a common cognitive and affective terrain: sites of data rendered actionable. Together they constitute an interlocking complex, harnessing the imaginary, that conditions orientation in the world.’ Crandell, p204

[image: still from Drone: Shadow Strike mobile app]

  • How we pursue the information.
  • Entertain ourselves and kill people in the same way.
  • Totally different consequences.

Lisa Barnard, from Virtual Iraq, 2008

  • Reality and simulation
  • Emotionally real enough

George Barber, The Freestone Drone, 2013

  • Projected onto hanging sheet.
  • Looking at the laundry or change it, men’s clothing.
  • Drone leading main actor.

‘I will be taking out somebody with a little bit of washing. Just one person, who probably washed the clothes that evening, before they lay down to sleep. … It will be a nothing type house in the middle of nowhere. I will come in, see the washing, and die. I wish you well. I am not responsible for what I do or say. I am to die in clean clothes, swathed in black like a body. People will hate me.’

 Interesting, emotionally, different between mechanical and operator.

Made it child-like, wonder of the world.


This lecture takes us back to thoughts at the beginning of the lecture series. Discussing visual technologies that exceed the capabilities of the human eye.

We mainly focussed on medical technologies and weaponised vision.

The imaging technologies we looked at used translated data rather than images.

  • Objectivity and subjectivity
  • Indexical: physical trace of evidence, something has been there, images are physical data.

Recent imaging technology: new cameras go beyond the human eye, no longer based on it.

Computational photography: information of time, time distortion, imaging in 4 dimensions.

Femto photography: Trillian frames per second, can show light in motion; beyond what the human eye can see.

Plenoptic or ‘Light Field’ Camera


  • Shows more than one perspective, because it captures than just a single scene you can change the focus in post-production.

Jules Spinatsch


  • During 2009 this was the largest panorama, but now it probably isn’t.
  • Shown is 8 hours’ worth of images. When looking at the image however you want to think it’s all the same time because of our own relation to time and images are usually a single moment.
  • Panorama: cannot see the world in this way, makes it strange to look at.
  • No longer to do with what our eye is capable of seeing.

Image as information

  • Create new referents
  • Femto, things that are created
  • Just showing (camera obscura) not active in the world.

‘The surgeon, the electronics fabricator, or somebody working with toxic materials – they are all using the image to manipulate something. … Images are a part of the primary intervention into the world.  … We are no longer wondering if our representation of the thing matches something out there. Today, more and more, we want images that do things. An evidentiary image is no longer sufficient for many scientists. We want images that help us organize information, that are accessible, that may not be a copy of something “out there” at all.” Galison, p36

‘The image is an integral part of [a] new matrix of power, and I think that we don’t really understand where it is going or what it will become. The searchable, cheap image, the archives of our digital lives – these will, I am sure, transform our way of life and our concepts of power.’ Galison, p39

  • In some ways, it is very creepy how much data is being collected of us without us being aware.

Medical Imagery

  • Has a relationship with touch.
  • Invisible data, have to rely on translation.


  • Think that we’re looking at a photograph as that’s what we’re used to but it has nothing to do with photography.
  • Further information can be gained from them that we cannot see, it needs to be translated by a professional.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

  • Uses radio frequencies.

Computerised Tomography (CT)

  • Slices of pictures, software combines them.

MRI, ultrasound, and similar images ‘do not conform to practices of sight. This difference signals a radical departure from our photographically informed notions of referentiality and indexicality, which are premised on the visible correspondence and causal connection of image with object.’ Teffer, p123

  • Indexicality: what we see was there.
  • What is produced by these machines has no analogy, between what we see in the image and medical technology are two different things.
  • Invisible information, transferred.
  • Made by computers, not able to do any of these before the computer was invented.

The ‘image’ of a foetus is ‘a phenomenon constituted in the interaction of the object/foetus with the ultrasound apparatus. This phenomenon, rather than the foetus itself, is the referent.’ Teffer124


  • Doesn’t come out like this.
  • Is an image but not a photograph.
  • Phenomenon is the referent, something that is happening.
  • 3D result of process.

Atomic Force Microscope

  • Study material surfaces
  • Based on physical interactions


Ontological and epistemological continuity between the photograph and the medical image

Ontological: Of or related to being.

Epistemological: Of or related to knowledge.

No longer rely on images in the same way.

Weaponised Vision

Beginning to think about what we will be dealing with in next week’s lecture.

  • Drones in a military context and the culture of surveillance.

James Bridle

James Bridle, Drone Shadow, Istanbul, 2012
  • Where a drone has been, ‘drone shadows’.
  • Making the form of surveillance visible.
  • Life size of drone.
James Bridle, Dronestagram, 2012
  • Estimate of where they have occurred.
  • Not real time, locates the coordinates using Google Earth.
  • Shows the areas before a drone strike because Google Earth doesn’t get updated very often.
  • Ability of drone to distance the act of killing.
  • Moral distance.
  • Mostly illegal killing.
  • Brings the strikes into visibility.
  • Based on data gathering, we can’t see with our eyes.
  • Political project.

The drone … for me, stands in part for the network itself: an invisible, inherently connected technology allowing sight and action at a distance. … But the non-human components of the network are not moral actors, and the same technology that permits civilian technological wonder, … also produces obscurantist ‘security’ culture, ubiquitous surveillance, and robotic killing machines.

This is a result of the network’s inherent illegibility, its tendency towards seamlessness and invisibility, from code to ‘the cloud’. Those who cannot perceive the network cannot act effectively within it, and are powerless. The job, then, is to make things visible.
James Bridle, from Under the Shadow of the Drone, 2012.


Essential reading: Lange, Christy (2013). ‘Blurred Visions’, Frieze 155.


Photography and the Body II: Experiencing the image (the image as artefact)

Looking at two genres of photography, fashion and pornography, both are meant to arouse sensation and affects. We have bodies.


  • Instagram: hand held object, not printed. Meaning of photographs are social.
  • You have to look at a daguerreotype in a certain way to see it, move it around.
  • You can recreate this with a large format black and white print.
  • Were luxury items (worth a month’s salary at the time) the owner would be of a certain social status.
  • Tin versions of it were a lot cheaper and more affordable.
  • They were meant to be handled, experienced as objects.
  • They’re now historical objects, this creates a different experience as they are seen on the wall rather than handled. The passage of time changes the way we see them.

Photography as index or trace

  • Physical relationship with index (direct relationship).
  • Example; a footprint, Victorian practice, post mortem, material trace.
  • Memorialising the dead – wax flower (won’t die) Physical memorial trace.
  • Meant to be kept, still do it in Japan. Shrine, religious icon.
  • Point – photograph has a direct relationship.

Daisuke Yokota

  • Heats and burns the photograph, shows it as an object.
  • At one point each image was a photograph of something.

Catherine Yass

Catherine Yass, ‘burn’, from the series Damage, 2005
  • Damages the negative.

Maurizio Anzeri

Maurizio Anzeri, ‘Priscilla, 1940’, from the series Second Hand Portraits, 2008
  • Found images threaded to create something else.

Katinka Goldberg

Katinka Goldberg, from the series Bristningar, 2013
  • Re-photographed
  • How viewers respond to photograph
  • The cut of collage, want people to know its collage, uneven cuts.
  • Scan photograph of collage or physical?

Alison Rossiter

Alison Rossiter, ‘Kodak Kodabrom F2, Expired March 1940, processed in 2007’, from the series Lament: Expired Paper, 2007-2009
  • Only develops old paper

Daniel Gordon

Daniel Gordon, ‘Zinnias’, from the series Still Lifes, Portraits, and Parts, 2011
  • 3D still life’s make out of photographs
  • Object becoming photograph.
  • In between stage of image and object.

Femke Dekkers

Femke Dekkers, Stage 10 (green), 2013
  • None in camera, large format.
  • Sculpture in real space, 2D when photographed.
  • Based on relationship between camera and 3D space.
  • For the cameras gaze.

Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige

Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Circle of Confusion, 1997
  • Took images from the exhibition, revealed mirror.
  • Interactive.

Shimon Attie

Shimon Attie, Mulackstrasse 32, (slide projection of former kosher butcher shop), 1993
  • Slides, locations.
  • Projections on original places.
  • Historical layers.

Affect contagion falls within the domain of ‘sympathetic communication’. Sympathetic modes of communication involve form-sharing, especially sharing of movement and affect, and they not only persist alongside linguistic modes, but inhabit and actively shape them. These are not rudimentary, infantile, or so-called ‘primitive’ modes of communication: rather, they are the essential prerequisites for, and accompaniments of, verbal communication. …. This is to say that they are not noise in the system: they are (part and parcel of) the system.” Gibbs, p338

  • Affect contagion – sharing of emotions. Example; smiling at someone randomly.
  • Sympathetic communication – body language, gesture, cultural, violence (middle finger).
  • sharing of movement and affect – Physical posture change how we experience the world – sit up, smile, makes you feel better.
  • All stuff to do with body, fills out meaning of images.

Mirror neurons

  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Motor neurons – someone doing something and seeing it. Same brain activity. Pain and sympathetically experience it. Bodily empathy. Own experience of having a body. Not been proved with humans.
  • Seeing and doing. Reason we feel empathy, body and emotional.

“Research on the human MNS has shown that the observation even of static images of actions leads to action simulation in the brain of the observer … the observation of static graspable objects activates not only visual areas of the brain but also motor areas that control object-related actions such as grasping. The observation of a graspable object leads to the simulation of the motor act that the object affords. This implies that the same neuron not only codes the execution of motor acts but also responds to the visual features that trigger them, even in the absence of overt movement.” (Freedberg & Gallese, p200)

Catherine Opie

Catherine Opie, Self-Portrait/Pervert, 1994

  • Sympathy to pain.
  • Gimp mask (BDSM)
  • Submissive
  • Big Image
  • ‘Pervert’ on chest
  • Background, Lavish, velvety, luxury, domestic, draped like a curtain.
  • Mother, also images of her breastfeeding her child.
  • Very little ambiguity.

Alexa Wright

Alexa Wright, from Opera Interna, 2005

  • Opera performers, emotions exaggerated.
  • How we experience lightened emotions.
  • Grotesque, disturbing – character on the end.
  • (Affect, emotion can come in, not completely).


  • Pull it and reveals two images.
  • Jonathan Crary, 19th century onwards, vision located in body, explosion of visual tricks.



  • Not just referent, visions occurs in body, explosion and of body.
  • Experience porn, vision embodied.



  • Two images from different views, makes it 3D.
  • Pornography, became so popular it became socially unacceptable to have one.

Porn – body genre. Encourages viewer to feel your own body. Fashion photography works in the same way. Both body genres, inhabit body of another person.

Isabelle Wenzel

Isabelle Wenzel, Figure no. 3, 2011
  • Her in her images, all real, not Photoshoped.
  • Physically doing things we cannot do.

Pinar Yolaçan

  • In Brazil it is common to call their maids ‘Maria’.
  • Dresses made of meat, maids not bothered by wearing the dresses, used to handling meat.
  • The second image is of the people who hire them.
  • Culturally dependent.

Juergen Teller

  • Looks possessed, not in control of body.
  • How a fashion photograph is meant to make us feel.
  • Unpleasant affects.
  • Dolls – hair over brushed, poses, body that isn’t a real body.
  • Fashionable to do industrial photo shoot.



Photography and The Body 1: Camera as Artifact – Body/Technology Relations

During this lecture we were discussing cameras and the way we use them.

To start off the lecture we were told about a performance art piece where the artist was naked and blindfolded in a cold room (the door was open) and had cold slip clay thrown on him by an assistant. The slip clay was not gently poured onto him but thrown on. Once the assistant had stopped throwing clay on to his body he then walked into a corner and curled up into a foetal position – this signified the end of the performance. He stayed in this position for 20-15 minutes.
The people watching this performance were constantly taking pictures or filming it… why?
It could be because we have a compulsion to record things, or perhaps due to the nature of the performance it could have been because they were feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable, empathising with the man doing to the performance, needing to put something in between them. Apparently the artist who performed the piece as his work always tends to me of this nature gets people reacting this way a lot.

Meaning is shaped both culturally and corporeally (of the nature of the physical body; bodily.)– embodied subject and cultural context exist in a reflexive relationship; they form a ‘dynamic unity’.

How at the beginning of taking a photograph meaning is put into it.

  1. Body-technology relations … technological mediation; the technologically augmented body-

Technologies, visual and embodied, new ways of experiencing the world.

  1. The act of photography as embedded in the world … the photograph as ‘in place’ and ‘in movement’

 Body/technology relations – the idea of ‘mediation’

Mediation between us and our cameras, connected, don’t have to think. An extension of ourselves.

“In our technological culture, many of the relations we have with the world around us are either mediated by or directed at technological devices – ranging from looking through a pair of glasses to reading off a thermometer, from getting money from an ATM to having a telephone conversation, and from hearing the sound of the air conditioner to having an MRI scan made.” Verbeek p389

‘Humans do not experience the world directly [in all cases], but … via a mediating artifact which helps to shape a specific relation between humans and world. [Technological artifacts] help to shape new experiences, either by procuring new ways of accessing reality or by creating new contexts for experience.  … human beings simply could not have such experiences without these mediating devices.’  Verbeek389

Technology helps to shape new experiences new ways of accessing reality.

Example: photographer Paul Geffrey was lost in a forest and in order to figure out where he was he used his camera on a high ISO. In his situation his camera could actually see more than he could and used it as a way of seeing.

 “Technologies of vision change both the object seen and the way of seeing through one’s kinesthetic body...” Ihde, p59
Kinesthetic: kinetic, in constant movement.

The photographer shown in the image would not be in this position if it wasn’t for the camera in his hands. picture5

“Merleau-Ponty … argues that … we grasp external space, relationships between objects and our relationships to them through our position in, and movement through, the world.” Entwistle, p28

Visual display instruments modify our “bodily movement … and [we have] had to learn to compensate for this by … careful, and sometimes consciously developed, bodily motion.” Ihde, p59
How we interact socially and with our environment.
For example: how an iPhone becomes an extension of our hand – holding an eye in our hand.

The Becher’s do extensive research before taking their pictures; they scout locations for days, make sure there’s the same amount of foreground and wait for an overcast day to actually take the picture.

Old selfies – bodily discipline, the arm in the picture, having to guess where your face was as there wasn’t a front camera on phones or portable cameras.

Sally Mann – uses an 10×8 camera, has to use her whole body to take the picture. Head to steady the camera, one hand covering the lens and the other taking the dark slide out. Guesses her exposure – knows it well enough to almost always get it right.

Amateur daguerreotype apparatus

(from Bland and Long catalogue, 1865)

–   No 1 Walnut sliding body camera

–   with a single achromatic lens mounted on a brass front

–   Dark slides for plates

–   Ground focusing glass, &c.

–   Bromine and iodine pans, with air-tight glass covers

–   1 set of frames  – 3 Plate holders

–   3 Plate boxes  – 2 Velvet polishing buffs

–   Mercury box, with thermometer

–   Porcelain washing tray

–   Gilding stand, with levelling screws

–    Improved pliers  –  Glass spirit lamp

–   Funnel   – Filtering paper

–   All the necessary chemicals and polishing materials-   in hard wood boxes. 

The whole is packed in two stained cases with locks and handles:

The following price does not include a supply of silvered plates

£6  6s  0d

Portable darkroom c. 1865

At the beginning of photography people had to travel with lots of equipment, you had to be dedicated to be willing to carry so much to take pictures.

How to make a wet collodion print

  1.  Dissolve gun-cotton in ether to produce collodion. 
  2. Add bromides and iodides to the collodion mixture and coat one side of the glass plate, to achieve an even coating of collodion. (Some early reports say the solution was sticky, and had to be spread onto the glass plates.  Others say it was thinner than water, was poured onto the glass plate.)
  3. Sensitize the glass plate by placing it for two minutes in a “silver bath”, usually a light-tight container containing silver nitrate dissolved in water.
  4. Transfer the plate, under a safelight, into a plate holder, then transfer the plate holder into the camera.
  5. Take the photo while the coating just wet and very delicate.  An exposure of several seconds would be required – perhaps 3 sec at f16.
  6. Develop the wet negative. (originally  pyro-gallic acid was used; later, in the 1860s, ferrous sulphate was used)
  7. Fix in hypo or a cyanide solution, rinse and dry.
  8. Coat with a gum sandarac varnish to help to protect the collodion layer.
  9. Lay the negative over albumen paper, and expose to light.
  10. Treat with gold chloride to prevent fading.

With wet collodion prints you are very involved in the process, as it takes so long in preparation and only gives you a short amount of time to actually take the picture it would make you slow down and really think about what you’re going to take a picture of. There is a back story to the images because of this, it creates context.

Photography as happening ‘in movement’ and ‘in place’
Images ‘form part of a world in which we are continually moving forward and which is the very source of their production and the environment of their consumption.’ Pink7
Both ideas Sarah Pink brings up in the article ‘visual studies’ (essential reading).
Images of tragic events spread quickly – world feels like a smaller place.
Sense of memories but also moving forward into the future. Process of moving forward. Deep sense of context.

Jay Haynes work was part of a geological survey documenting the American West as part of propaganda. The team were all men (no record of women- perhaps just to cook). Images of idyllic, hostile environments, too dangerous for women.
Photography expeditions got attacked- not wanting them on their land. The camera limited the possibilities of what they could record, sand storms etc, wouldn’t be able to expose due to low light.


Abelardo Morell, Camera Obscura: View of the Brooklyn Bridge in Bedroom, 2009

Abelardo Morell made camera obscura’s in hotel room and photographed them, used a lens so that they were the right way up. The camera obscura is a moving image. He was basically taking an image of the inside of a camera.

More points discussed by Pink:

‘Photographs are part of multisensory environments and experienced through the interconnected senses; they are produced in and by movement, they are not static, and do not stand for static surfaces but always represent environments they were part of; when we view or ‘consume’ images they cannot take us ‘back’ but are part of new ‘constellations of processes’ …we become corporeally and sensorially engaged with them …’ Pink9

The photographer ‘has to ‘know what it is to move like a bullfighter, to be able to feel her or himself into the moves made by the performer, and, importantly, to take the photograph at the right moment and be able to anticipate performer and bull’s next move.’ Pink10

‘Photographing the bullfight is thus a sensory embodied practice, in which the photographer uses her or his own practical experience to become corporeally engaged with the movement of bull and performer. She or he might be sitting in the stalls, or leaning over the barrier, but is simultaneously in movement, both through the narrative of the performance and because her or his own actions are intertwined and moving forward with those of the bullfighter-bull.’ Pink10

Technology has made it possible to photograph things in different ways – see world in more depth.

  •  Smaller cameras: Luigi Colani, Canon T90, 1986, Leica Luxus c.1930
  • Go Pro’s: can be used in all kinds of different environments, can be attached to objects such as helmets – hands free.
  • Underwater Cameras: being able to photograph whilst underwater, creates more freedom, less limited.
  • Compact cameras: easy to carry around, light weight.

Gregory Crewdson


Gregory Crewdson, Untitled, (from Beneath the Roses), 2007

Crewdson controls everything in the image, the way he works is more like a film set. The image looks very still and eerie due to the colours, but could be mistaken for an instant image taken spontaneously. Creating an image that looks like reality but isn’t.

In conclusion during this lecture I began to think about how I relate to my camera. With some mediums I feel very connected (Pentax K1000) and others I feel worlds apart from (large format). I don’t have to think when I’m using 35mm or a DSLR, but with large format I have to constantly think about what I’m doing and I also question myself a lot because the film is expensive and it’s a long process to have to do it again so I want to get it right first time. I have also perhaps always felt more comfortable with smaller cameras as I grew up in the technological age where everything was getting smaller and smaller this is what I know. It is very interesting looking at my work where I have used 35mm or medium format compared to large format as I feel as though my images show the amount of control I’m having in the image.

Photographing the Invisible

During this lecture we spoke about photographing something that isn’t visible to the human eye.

Tom Gunning

  • 1850s, photography was associated with the supernatural (Felix Nadar- movement, blur = spirit and dead).
  • Ambiguity of how people thought about photography at the time.
  • Radiate something (onion skin) only so much you can give when being photographed.
  • Double of the sitter (ghostly double)

‘At the same time that the daguerreotype recorded the visual reality of material reality it also seemed to dematerialise it, to transform it into a ghostly double’.
Tom Gunning, ‘Phantom Images and Modern Manifestations’, in Patrice Petro (ed), Fugitive Images: From Photography to Video, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995, p.43.

Felix Nadar and his wife Ernestine, Self-portrait in a balloon, 1860s.

The Fox Sisters

  • In 1848 the Fox sisters began to hear ghostly knocks in the night (code).
  • They thought they were making a connection with the people/spirits who were making the noise.
  • Beginning of spirituality.
  • Came to the conclusion someone had dies there.
  • Religion emerged, routed from Christianity (dead come to life) based on main religion.
  • Religious movement.
  • Claimed to be modernity and science combined.
  • Photography provided support for spiritualism.
Anon., Margaret and Kate Fox, ca.1848.

Spirit photography

  • Began 1860s-1861

William Mumler

  • Produced photograph when they were using glass plates which you would clean after each use, but if you didn’t clean it properly there would be part of an image left on the plate. This was known knowledge at the time yet it was ignored and people still believed that what they were seeing was spirits.
  • His wife claimed to be a healer.
  • Spirits found in the photographs were beginning to be recognised, some of the people were still alive.
  • Authorities began to get concerned- Mumler was prosecuted (1809) for fraud but wasn’t convicted, it did however damage his reputation.
  • People tried to destroy spirit photography, condemned by scientists and photographers.
  • Wanted explanations for it but wouldn’t admit they put the ‘spirits’ in the images.
William Mumler, Portrait of Mrs Lincoln, with ‘extra’ of Abraham Lincoln, ca.1860s.
  • Each spirit photographer had their own style.
  • In the 1870’s spirit photography spread to Europe.

Britain (London) Frederick A. Hudson

  • Figures in sheets (iconography)
  • Collaborations began to happen, performance.
Frederick Hudson, Mrs Houghton and spirit of her aunt, 1872; Frederick Hudson, Mrs Houghton, Thomas Guppy and spirit of his grandmother, 1870s.

France spirit photography movement
Edouard Buguet

  • Incantations, very performative.
  • Psychology- why would they believe?
  • Praying on people in a vulnerable position- contacting dead relative.
  • Was taken to court- fined and imprisoned for a year- he admitted what he did.
  • People still insisted they were real, they were seeing what they wanted to.
Edouard Isidore Buguet, “Ketty King”. Florence Cook and Charles Blackburn, on a trip to Paris, 1874; M. Gueret recognises his drowned brother, n.d.
William Crookes, Portraits of ‘Katie King’, 1874.
  • Famous collaboration between scientist William Crookes and medium Katie King.
  • Scientists thought they might find something in spirit photography- still suspicious.
  • Spirit of Katie King in the picture.
  • William Crookes was a very important scientist and this is why people believed in his research and thought it was the best evidence.
  • Crookes never spoke of his earlier work, was knighted Sir William Crookes.

Clément Chéroux observes, ‘spirit photography had two faces’: ‘Like Janus, it was used for both mystification and demystification’.
Clément Chéroux, ‘Ghost Dialectics: spirit photography in entertainment and belief’, in The Perfect Medium, p.46.

  • Private investigators where always trying to catch spiritual photographers out.

John Lobb

  • Claimed in his book Talks with the Dead, 1906 that spirit photography was real.
  • X-rays etc. meant spiritual photography was authentic.

James Coates

  • Photographing the Invisible,
  • Just before WWI, tradition of mesmerism- explained through animal magnetism.
  • Mesmerism- dead and alive give this off- how it happened.

Jacob Von Narkiewicz-Jodko

  • Recording what we can’t see.
Jacob Von Narkiewicz-Jodko, Effluvia from an electrified hand resting on a photographic plate, 1896.

Louis Darget

  • Thoughts and dreams transmitting from their head.
Louis Darget, mental photographs and their interpretations. Left, portrait of Beethoven; right. Dream of an eagle.
  • WWI, social justification for spirit photography- when the soldiers returned as spirits.
  • Vulnerable state- nothing left for them, saw what they wanted to see, believe anything due to grief.
  • Spirit photography was affordable.
  • Critics were disgusted by spirit photography, how they pray on the vulnerable.

Raymond, by Sir Oliver J. Lodge

  • Wife convinced him to go.
  • Medium told them they would send them a photograph of their son they had not seen before and they did. This convinced him as the credibility of the photography was strong.
  • Wrote a book about his experience.
  • Judgement was clouded by grief.
  • During the great war there was a boom for spirit photography but it became less popular afterwards.

The Cenotaph

  • A national center for people to grieve- channel it.
The Cenotaph, Whitehall, London, design by Lutyens. Inaugurated in 1920.

Ada Deane

  • Claimed spirits of the dead soldiers returned during the ceremony.
  • Noticed they were soldiers at all but people such as footballers.
Ada Deane, Armistice Day ceremony, 1922.

Roland Barthes Camera Lucida

  • Central source- micro version of death- being photographed.
  • ‘a micro version of death’
  • ‘becoming a specter’
  • ‘The photograph’, says Barthes, ‘is literally an emanation of the referent. From a real body, which was there, proceed radiations which ultimately touch me, who am here …’

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, London: Jonathan Cape, 1982, p.14, 80 and 88.

William Hope

  • One of the best spirit photographers.
  • Shrouded figures.
  • Prayers, alternative form of religion.
  • Target for investigators, especially Harry Price who pretended to be someone else and managed to get a sitting.
  • Price used x-rays to prove he was switching the plates.

Psychic photography

  • Ghost stamp, how they were adding the ‘spirits’ to the photographs.


Essential reading: Sconce, Jeffrey, Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television, Durham and London: Duke University Press (2000) – see ch.1


Crary and the ‘New’ Sensation of 19th Century

Art’s historical position was driven by a re-assessment of how human vision functions, during the mid-late 19th Century where a rapture of how we understand visuality.
Crary discusses how art jumped from such renaissance paintings such as Pietro Perugino to Wassily Kandinsky and Jackson Pollock, this sudden change in how we understand art and this change can’t be explained in discussion of materials and experiments, we must look into the historical context such as the development in cognitive science and psychology.

“[W]hen, and because of what events, [was there] a rupture with Renaissance, or classical, models of vision and of the observer[?] How and where one situates such a break has an enormous bearing on the intelligibility of visuality within nineteenth- and twentieth-century modernity. Most existing answers to this question suffer from an exclusive preoccupation with problems of visual representation; the break with classical models of vision in the early nineteenth century was far more than simply a shift in the appearance of images and art works, or in systems of representational conventions. Instead, it was inseparable from a massive reorganization of knowledge and social practices that modified in myriad ways the productive, cognitive, and desiring capacities of the human subject”

(Crary, 1992, p.5).

Discussion of Jonathan Crary’s book Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle and Modern Culture.

Crary discusses 19th Century painting, specifically looking at Georges Seurat, Cirque, 1890-91 and Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Plaster Cupid, 1894/5 however he does not look at Edouard Manet to which he puts to keeping the book at a reasonable size; however, he could have another motivation.

In Crary’s view the rupture happens exclusively in the latter half of the 19th Century (1850’s onwards) where vision is ‘subjectivized’

“The idea of subjective vision—the notion that our perceptual and sensory experience depends less on the nature of an external stimulus than on the composition and functioning of our sensory apparatus—was one of the conditions for the historical emergence of notions of autonomous vision, that is, for a severing (or liberation) of perceptual experience from a necessary relation to an exterior world. […] This was the decisive achievement of the science of psychophysics in the mid-nineteenth century, which, by apparently rendering sensation measurable, embedded human perception in the domain of the quantifiable and the abstract. […] These developments are part of a critical historical turning point in the second half of the nineteenth century at which any significant qualitative difference between life and technics begins to evaporate. The disintegration of an indisputable distinction between the interior and exterior becomes a condition for the emergence of spectacular modernizing culture and for a dramatic expansion of the possibilities of aesthetic experience” (Crary, 1999, pp.12–13).

From 1850’s onwards we begin to get scientific theories which depend less on the exterior view on the world and visual sense on it becomes different.

Attention concept radically rethought from 18th century to 19th century:

“Attention, as it was conceived of in the later nineteenth century, is radically alien to eighteenth century notion of mental activity as a stamp or a mold that will somehow fix or preserve the constancy of objects. In historical discussions of the problem of attention, one often encounters the claim that the modern psychological category of attention is continuous with notions of apperception that were important in different ways for Leibniz and Kant. But in fact what is crucial is the unmistakable historical discontinuity between the problem of attention in the second half of the nineteenth century and its place in European thought in previous centuries” (Crary, 1999, p.18–19).

Sensation reconceptualised

“The model of attentive human observer that dominated the empirical sciences from the late 1880s on was also inseparable from a radically transformed notion of what constitutes sensation for a human subject. Within the increasingly sophisticated laboratory environment, sensation became an effect or a set of effects that were technologically produced and were used to describe a subject who was compatible with those technical conditions. That is, its significance as an “interior” faculty disappeared and it became a quantity or set of effects that could be measured or observed externally. […] Within this vast project, an older model of sensation as something belonging to a subject became irrelevant. Sensation now had empirical significance only in terms of magnitudes that corresponded to specific quantities of energy (e.g., light) on one hand and to measurable reaction times and other forms of performative behavior on the other. It cannot be emphasised too strongly how, by the 1880s, the classical idea of sensation ceases to be a significant component in the cognitive picture of nature” (Crary, 1999, pp. 26-27).

Before 1850s cognitive science were more thoughtful of how the interior had an impact on the senses.

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884.

“La Grande Jatte, in particular, can be seen as an ambiguous puzzle, in Durkheimian terms, of the problematic nature of social association. Is the assemblage pictured here an image of harmony, the near-equilibrium state of solidarity, of individuals transformed into ‘social beings’? Or is it a statistical distribution of isolated and categorized units, the result of a merely additive principle of formal adjacency, in which depleted, anomic relations predominate beneath the spurious appearance of social concord?”

Durkheimian theory – is it a picture of late 19th century Parisian harmony of society all together or a critical work reacting to the increasing bourgeoisie Napoleon 3rd working class of Paris. At ease or competition between classes?


Georges Seurat, Cirque, 1890–91, is a picture “not […] of a circus but […] a frozen interval of a moving image that happens to be of circus performers. The image becomes like a fragment or section, detached from a continuum of images, that declares its remoteness from the conditions of ‘natural’ perception. The acrobat, the horse, and its rider are all immobilized as if through the exercise of nonhuman perception, in a simulation of a practice Reynaud effectively inaugurated, the freeze frame or stop action” (Crary, 1999, p.273).

Increasing technology, subject matter looking at emerging technology and film.

“As much as Reynaud, Muybridge, or Fuhrmann, Seurat too was a producer of what Jean-Louis Comolli calls ‘machines of the visible’; his work is also lodged amid the shift from artisanal practices to the repetitive and standardizing industrial modes of image making” (ibid.).
Machine matters more than subject matter.


  1. “Subjective vision” is the exclusive achievement of 19th-century psychophysics?
    (Made explicity in 1770 for the first time by immanuel Kant)

Kant: the forms of perception (space and time) are subjective in terms of their relation to the existent external world. I.e., the external world does not contain them – they are not ‘given’ with the stimuli coming to us from the external world. They are ‘added’ to the stimuli by our minds. Without these subjective “conditions of possibility” of perception, we could not perceive things of the world at all – or would at least perceive them extremely differently.

  1. “The disintegration of an indisputable distinction between the interior and exterior” is also something that belongs to the 19th century?

Kant: the forms that enable us to perceive what we think of as the external world are in fact ‘internal’ to our minds. Although space and time seem very much like attributes of the external world, in fact they are but subjective/internal forms of human perception.

  1. Attention has nothing to do with Kant’s theories?

Kant: Attention is the same as our self-affectation in acts of  perceiving ourselves inwardly: when I ask myself what am I seeing/feeling/thinking, I ask what kinds of sensory presentations are ‘in me’ right now. This Is the same as paying attention. (See CPR, B156, n.292.)


Sensation is radically reconceptualised in the 19th century. Instead of “an interior faculty”, instead of something that belongs to a subject, it now becomes an external effect or set thereof, which can be simulated in a laboratory.

Is this right?

Kant in CPR, A19–20/B34: “The effect of an object on our capacity for presentation, insofar as we are affected by the object, is sensation.”

I.e., in 1781/89 Kant defines sensation as the effect of an object (external in particular) on our senses (or, as he calls it, on sensibility, our capacity to represent objects given through sense stimuli).

In Critique of Judgement (1791) §VII/Ak. 189: “Sensation […] in its proper meaning […] stands for what is material (real) in presentations (that through which something existent is given) […]; sensation is also required for cognition of objects outside us” (emphasis added).

I.e., Kant even sees the external function of sensation as the ‘proper’ meaning of the term despite later widening his theory of sensation to include also ‘internal’ sensations, namely, feelings.

One crucial implication of Kants theory is that sensations are not given outside our spacial relations doesn’t come to you as a stimulus package but you have to do the work to put it together. For example; if you see two planes in the sky just seeing them doesn’t register the distance in your head, you have to have the knowledge to put it together yourself.

Going back to Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884 –
Readable social theory, making commentary of Parisian middle class, looking at the size difference of the people depicted in the image.


The spacial relations in the image are not correct, if they were he man in the top hat would be a tiny compared to the man lying down giving him more emphasis in the painting. This is a recurring theme in the image.


It is in this section of the image, this triangle of people that the sizing of the people is the most obvious as you can see how unstable the spacial relations are. The man in the top hat is much smaller than the young girl in the foreground and also the couple in the background.

Kant’s project is based on the claim that we need to process sensory stimuli by both sensuous forms of intuitions and conceptual forms of thought.

“Without sensibility no object would be given to us, without understanding no object would be thought. Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind”
(CPR, A51/B75).
We can see things without actually understanding what we are seeing. We need to be able to see, sense and also add the concept to it.

Discussing Claude Monet
“I remember his [Claude Monet’s] once saying this to me: ‘When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think, here is a little square of blue,here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives you a naïve impression of the scene before you.’ He said he wished he had been born blind and then had suddenly gained his sight so that he could have begun to paint in this way without knowing what the objects were that he saw before him”

(Cabot Perry, 1927/1990, p.116).
Cabot Perry was one of Monet’s student – only getting the statement through her.

Monet’s paintings are quite photographic, as his career progresses you can see how his work becomes more and more spacially ambiguous. Don’t think about space conceptually – which relates to Kant’s theory on sensation.

Discussing Paul Cézanne

Throughout Paul Cézanne’s career he has seemingly had an issue with space, which has become more defined over time as you can see in the images shown.

“Painting from nature is not copying the object, it is realizing one’s sensations” (Kendall, 2004, p.203).

–Emile Bernard: “So you understand art to be a union of the world and the individual?”

–Cézanne: “I understand it as personal apperception. This apperception I locate in sensation, and I require of the intellect that it should organize these sensations into a work of art.”

–Bernard: “But what sensations are you referring to? Those of your feelings or of your retina?

–Cézanne: I don’t think you can distinguish between the two; however, as a painter, I believe in the visual sensation above all else (ibid. p.193).

“There are two things in the painter, the eye and the mind; each of them should aid the other. It is necessary to work at their mutual development, in the eye by looking at nature, in the mind by the logic of organized sensations which provides the means of expression” (ibid p.203).

What Cézanne is discussing is a very Kantian theory on sensation.   

 László Moholy-Nagy


László Moholy-Nagy, Marseille, Port View, 1929.

In many of Moholy-Nagy’s images without context it could be difficult to be able to tell that we are actually looking at.
With Port View I knew straight away what I was looking at but with Untitled shown below it was a little unclear, especially as there is no clue in the title.
When I first looked at it I assumed that it was a roof terrace with the grass and tree below it but after a discussion on what we each saw it became very unclear and I was no longer sure what I was looking at. This completely goes against the idea of photographs being depictions of truth if we do not even know what it is we’re looking at.

László Moholy-Nagy, Untitled, 1940-44

There is evidence in the two images above that Moholy-Nagy was interested in Monet’s work as they have a close resemblance in how Moholy-Nagy has composed his image of the same place Monet painted.

Aleksandr Rodchenko, Lumber, 1929/30

In Rodchenko’s work he is disrupting our visual perception also, without the knowledge of the title I think it would take me a long time to figure out what I was looking at. The lines almost make it look like I’m looking down on a field.




Bridget Riley, Fall, 1963

In Riley’s work they are tricking your mind into placing spatial structures in the image where there aren’t any. This creates the illusion that it’s moving.




Patrick Hughes, Vanishing Venice (date uncertain)

Lastly we looked at Patrick Hughes whose image Vanishing Venice creates the visual illusion that the closest part of the image actually looks the furthest away. This confuses our sense’s as we can see what is wrong with the image but can’t put it right. I have found this image the hardest to get my head around.


Walter Benjamin and the Optical Unconscious

Rosaline Krauss

  • Art historian, late 20th century
  • Alternate reading of modernism
  • ‘The Optical Unconcious

“It is through photography that we first discover the existence of this optical unconscious, just as we discover the instinctual unconscious through psychoanalysis”
(Benjamin, 1931/2005, pp.511–512).

  • The conscious and unconscious fighting against each other.
  • Unconscious telling us what we actually want to do, say and be.

“Reading this, of course, we are struck by the strangeness of the analogy[…]”

“[…] what can we speak of in the visual field that will be an analogue of the ‘unconscious’ itself, a structure that presupposes first a sentient being within which it operates, and second a structure that only makes sense insofar as it is in conflict with that being’s consciousness? Can the optical field – the world of visual phenomena; clouds, sea, sky, forest – have an unconscious?

“For Freud a sentence like Benjamin’s ‘the camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses,’ from the ‘Work of Art’ essay, would simply be incomprehensible”
(Krauss, 1993, pp.178–179 – cf. Yacavone, 2012, pp.39–40).

  • Krauss doesn’t really discuss Benjamin.
  • Perhaps the camera reveals the unconscious.
  • Larger social structures, camera can reveal own world as it desires.
  • Not optical – political
  • Last analyse Benjamin doesn’t make sense.

August Sander

“Sander starts off with the peasant, the earthbound man, takes the observer through every social stratum and every walk of life up to the highest representatives of civilization, and then goes back down all the way to the idiot”
(Alfred Döblin, quoted in Benjamin, 1931/2005, p.520).

Walter Benjamin

  • Earliest article- News about flower ‘Neues von Blumen’
  • Plant details, archive, wild plants and weeds.
  • Review, transformation of human perception.
  • Philosopher

We can work out ways humans have to be conscious of the world- sensuous relationship.
Suggests we know nothing outside of our consciousness.

Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason:

-Human perception has two necessary forms: space & time. (Specifically, on the standard reading  of Kant, three-dimensional/Euclidean space and one-dimensional time).

  • The human sensory and cognitive ‘equipment’ follows these forms regardless of what the world outside the mind is like

-This holds for all human beings always and everywhere

“whether we accelerate the growth of a plant through time-lapse photography or show its form in forty-fold enlargement, in either case a geyser of new image-worlds hisses up at points in our existence where we would least have thought them possible.”

  • Photography is a potent tool in changing our perception of the world.
  • Strange things can be found- magnification


A little History of Photography

  • Benjamins’s treatment of the subject goes beyond just the history of photography and develops his ideas of the cognitive and political potential of photography.
  • It begins his famous concept of the ‘optical unconscious’
  • Against any attempts to look at photography in the same way as painting.
  • Blasphemy- painting of human being- afraid of new technology, replace older arts.
  • Photography is a new medium, not to be compared to painting.
  • Brings forward how we relate to each other and the world socially and cognitively.
  • Portrait painting artists will portray in some kind of way the artist’s skill.
  • Photography shows people as we are without artist or model wanting to be portrayed- there’s a special relationship.

“[Although] we have some idea of what is involved in the act of walking (if only in general terms), we have no idea at all what happens during the fraction of a second when a person takes a step. Photography, with its devices of slow motion and enlargement, reveals the secret. It is through photography that we first discover the existence of this optical unconscious, just as we discover the instinctual unconscious through psychoanalysis.”

Karl Dauthendey, The Photographer Karl Dauthendey with his betrothed Miss Friedrich (1837-1873) after their first attendance at church on 1st September 1857.

We are looking at the same picture in the future or past, present and future.

“No matter how artful the photographer, no matter how carefully posed his subject, the beholder feels an irresistible urge to search such a picture for the tiny spark of contingency, of the here and now, with which reality has (so to speak) seared the subject, to find the inconspicuous spot where in the immediacy of that long-forgotten moment the future nests so eloquently that we, looking back, may rediscover it. For it is another nature which speaks to the camera rather than to the eye: ‘other’ above all in the sense that a space informed by human consciousness gives way to a space informed by the unconscious.”

“[…] the inconspicuous spot where in the immediacy of that long-forgotten moment the future nests so eloquently that we, looking back, may rediscover it.”

  • Human time, for Benjamin, is not necessarily one-dimensional and sequential, as Kant had tried to establish

-Rather, it is a “complex formation of past, present and future”
(Howard Caygill, Walter Benjamin: The Colour of Experience, p.81)

  • Benjaminian optical unconscious.
  • Beautiful geometric world.

Aura of an object

“the unique appearance or semblance of distance, no matter how close [the object] may be.”

  • Aura is product of a discourse.
  • Cannot be natural: culture and history.
  • Unique objects: temples, mosaics and sculptures have aura’s. Objects that cannot be reproduced.
  • Must be conscious- approachability.
  • In society only certain people can explain and touch.
  • Only historians allowed close to object.

“[T]he earliest art works originated in the service of ritual––first the magical, then the religious kind.” (Section IV, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction)

“[T]he elk portrayed by the man of the Stone Age on the walls of his cave was an instrument of magic.” (section V)

  • The ritualistic function of art persists in religious art and in the secular ‘cult of beauty’

The withering of the aura of art is

“[…] a symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art. One might generalise by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition.” (Section II)

  • Photography aura disappears due to reproductability.
  • Art growing equality of society, more people can critique and be a part of it.
  • Doesn’t just mean reproducing works of art.
  • Moved onto era creating works of art that reproduce themselves. Designed to be reproduced.
  • Increasing: works meant to be reproduced, more easily distributed.
  • Gallery, books, not bound to being shown in the wall.
  • Meaning of work lessens (more people seeing it).

Essential reading: ‘Little History of Photography,’ in Benjamin, W. Selected Writings, Volume 2 1927–1934. Transl. by Rodney Livingstone and others, Edited by Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland and Gary Smith. Cambridge MA and London: Harvard/Belknap.

The Return of the Body: Affect and Embodied Perception

During this lecture we discussed how we perceive images, specifically looking at affect and frameworks against the Cartesian theatre theory.

The Wester subject is…

Monosensory                   Disembodied

  • Believed the only sense that is important is vision.
  • Blushing, pimples when scared are things that we can’t control, which goes against the Cartesian theatre theory.
  • Affect contagion

Representational thinking:

representational’ thinking is ‘the belief that representations serve a mediating function between knower and known’, and a faith in ‘the power of words to mirror preexisting phenomena.’ Barad 133

Screening and filtering what we see.


  • Important tool, linguistic signs attached to the picture. Trap mediated by language.
  • Has limitations, can’t get very fair only using semiotics when analysing fashion.

Crary and ‘embodied vision’

  • How the eye was formed. Scientists look at how the eyes made.
  • Idea of seeing camera obscura change.
  • Unstable physiology and temporality – bodies always changing (we get a headache when we’re hungover).
  • The idea of ‘subjective vision’
  • Vision is always grounded in a body.

From the beginning of the nineteenth century a science of vision will tend to mean increasingly an interrogation of the physiological makeup of the human subject, rather than the mechanism of light and optical transmission. It is a moment when the visible escapes from the timeless order of the camera obscura and becomes lodged … within the unstable physiology and temporality of the human body.” Crary, p70

Goethe, Theory of Colours, 1810

‘physiological colours’: optical effects produced within the body of the observer.

Believed that in paintings when complimentary colours were placed next to each other the eye mixes them together. Our eyes don’t actually do this, the colours just look separate.




Crary’s key ideas about vision…

– modern vision is the product of relations between the body, and institutional and discursive power (cultural forces)
– vision is a  ‘historical practice’ with “no autonomous history. What changes are the plural forces and rules composing the field in which perception occurs.” Crary p6
– Vision can be shaped and malleable.
Discursive: Body of thought and understanding.
Michel Foucault Madness and Civilization – Manic depression and hallucinations were celebrated but institution said they were not normal, phycology has shaped the way we see people with these illnesses.

Embodied subjects, embodied perception

From a cognitive neuroscience perspective …

Our minds would not be the way that they are without the input from the body the mind functions on the basis of the frame of reference that the body continuously provides mind and body form an indivisible organism, which interacts with the environment as an ensemble.
Mind functions on the basis of the frame of reference that the body continuously (physically and emotionally) provides mind and body form an invisible organism, which interacts with the environment as an ensemble.
The body cannot function without mind.

 Charles Taylor

  • Phenomenology
  • Invisible from mind, body and world.
  • Sharing of emotion.

“I am part of the world, I perceive things from somewhere within it. Being myself a body, I have as it were charter membership among the things of the world which surround me. I understand them from the inside because I am one of them.” (Taylor, p13)

Case study:
“I found to my horror that at times I was less conscious of myself, of my own existence, than I used to be the case. This sensation was so novel that at first it quite bewildered me. I felt like asking someone constantly if I were really George Dedlow or not; but, well aware how absurd I should seem after such a question I refrained form speaking of my case, and strove more keenly to analyse my feelings. At times the conviction of my want of being myself was overwhelming and most painful. It was, as well as I can describe it, a deficiency in the eogoistic sentiment of individuality.”

  • Sense of self compromised.
  • Born without vs. lost later in life.

“If one had to sum up Merleau-Ponty’s philosophical legacy in a phrase, one might say that he more than any other taught us what it means to understand ourselves as embodied agents. … The human subject is an agent, engaged in activity, and engaged in a world, which is his world. He is an embodied subject.” Taylor p1

Perception involves more than vision and rational thought; it involves all the senses.

Proprioception – Sense of where your body is in space.
Kinesthetic sense – How you tell if your body is moving or not.
Vestibular sense – Sense of balance.

Embodiment, Affect, and Meaning

 Meaning refers “to the ways in which our world is non-indifferent for us. Features of the world have meaning for a subject because they touch her/him in various ways. That one is so touched, concerned, non-indifferent is a [basic] fact about subjects.” Taylor, p2

  • Situation photographer or model experience.
  • The way it touches us.
  • Non-indifferent, touch people in various ways
  • Photography shaped not only by discourse but by affect, when we are altogether conscious it creates meaning to us.
  • Acknowledge our feelings towards the images, if not images would be meaningless to us.

Affect = Emotion (synonym)

 Affect = Silvan Tomkins

  • How particular emotions are linked with bodily emotions.
  • May not be able to control.
  • Motivating response.

Affect = Brian Massumi

  • Argues against affect as emotion.
  • Parallel to cognitive process.
  • Affect based in body- cognitive drivers.

‘Intensity’ [affect] is embodied in purely autonomic reactions most directly manifested in the skin – at the surface of the body, at its interface with things. … [Language] doubles the flow of images on another level, on a different track.’ Parables, pp25-26.

 The truths which intelligence grasps directly in the open light of day have something less profound, less necessary about them than those which life has communicated to us in spite of ourselves in an impression, a material impression because it has reached us through our senses.’ Marcel Proust

 ‘Approaches to the image in its relation to language are incomplete if they operate only on the semantic or semiotic level, however that level is defined (linguistically, logically, narratologically, ideologically, or all of these in combination, as a Symbolic). What they lose, precisely, is the expression event – in favour of structure.’ (Massumi, Parables for the Virtual, p27)

‘… there is no cultural-theoretical vocabulary specific to affect. … Will and consciousness are subtractive. They are limitative, derived functions that reduce a complexity too rich to be … expressed.’ (Massumi, Parables for the Virtual, p29)

‘Intensity [affect] is asocial, but it is not presocial – it includes social elements but mixes them with elements belonging to other levels of functioning and combines them according to a different logic.’ (Massumi, Parables for the Virtual, p29)

Dennis Del Favero, Parting Embrace, 1998

Favero’s work shown above has a negative affect and creates a feeling of discomfort to the viewer even before knowing it’s subject is child sexual abuse.
The work is hard to describe using semiotics because you can’t be sure what it is you’re looking at in the images.

Antony Gormley, Blind Light, 2007

Gormley’s work consisted of walking through a room full of mist. When walking around you have to use all your sense other than sight to find your way around the room.

Cildo Meireles, Volátil, 1980-94

For Volátil you had to take off your shoes and walk on what felt like corn starch or flour (people weren’t aware what it was) in the dark. In the room it smelt like gas and as you felt around the room you finally came to a lit candle at the end of a room. This makes you use all of the senses.

Joana Vasconcelos, Passerelle (Catwalk), 2005

Joana Vasconcelos work shows ceramic dogs hung up like animal carcasses, there was a button you pressed which turned the machine on and as the ceramic dogs moved around they swung into each other and smash leaving parts of them left on the floor.

Joana Vasconcelos, Pantelmina #2, 2001

This is another piece by Vasconcelos, even though what we see is just a giant knitted object the way that its constricted against the wall gives connotations of cruelty.


Self as Spectator

During this lecture we discussed what we do with cameras and the relationship between the eye and the rest of our bodies and the way we relate to the world.

Subjectivity- talking about us. Sense of self.
Nature- gender, race, physical appearance, religion. All have a different experience, shapes the way we experience life.

Vision and eye, self and world
We began by discussing Alberti’s perspective construction (c.1435)

This was used to determine where the horizon would be in the painting. It meant that the paintings all looked the same as the other.







picture2Albrecht Durer, Draughtsman Using a Net, c. 1525

The image above shows a Net being used, this was used in order to get the correct proportions of whatever was being drawn. He lines up his eye the object in front of it to get an accurate visualisation. Albrecht Durer was a Renaissance painter.

Graphic Telescope c. 1812

The beginnings of lens based technology.






Model for human subject. Mediating (acts between two things) our vision; camera between you and your subject, changes your relationship with the world.

How does it act as the model for the subject?
Duccio de Buoninsegna, Christ Entering Jerusalem, 1308-11

Image is disproportionate, Christ and the others in the foreground are larger than the door. The whole image looks quite flat as though they’re all too close together.





Duccio de Buoninsegna, The Last Supper, 1308-11

The same as Christ Entering Jerusalem, this image too is very disproportionate and looks very flat.
Giotto, Christ Driving the Demons out of Arezzo, 1308-11

You can tell that this painting is more observational and was based more on experience – moves through space.





Distance and closeness

The image
shows the first photograph of the earth taken from space.
Telescopes proved how far away the moon is, before it was common to believe that it wasn’t very far away.


Alberti’s Perspective Construction c. 1435

 Coming back to Alberti’s Perspective Construction: the canvas size was up to the painter, this method allowed it to work no matter the size, then you would choose where you wanted the horizon to be, depending on where you placed the horizon would change the way the spectator viewed the image. The horizon would be measured by using the size of the man. Choose a vanishing point, in the top left image you can see this being done, the space past the picture has to be equal to that of the original image size and finally you would end up with a grid.
It was believed that with paintings using this construction the viewer would experience disembodiment, so the physical body would not be a part of their experience.
Link between eye and vanishing point: shared space or ‘stage’

Raphael, Betrothal of The Virgin, 1504

In this painting the horizon line is higher up, this makes the viewer more elevated and as though they are looking down on the scene.


picture14Diane Arbus, Retired Man and His Wife at Home in a Nudist Camp, 1963
This image by Diane Arbus has been taken as though you could walk into the space. This combined with the naked subjects in the image is contrasted. It is as though we are being invited in to a private experience.

This is further contradicted by the fact we cannot enter this space; it is unreachable to us as viewers.

Candida Hofer, from Libraries, 2005

Candida Hofer’s images of libraries feel quite imposing, they’re inviting and repellent- institutionalized. She has used the camera to create a specific type of space.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, View from Berlin Radio Tower, 1928

Photographed straight down, makes the image look very abstract. At first glance it is hard to tell that it is actually a downwards view.

Rut Blees Luxemberg, ‘Vertiginous Exhilaration’, from the series A Modern Project, 1996

Creates a feeling of discomfort, playing on the feeling of vertigo.


Monosensory – how we experience images using only sight.

“[Linear perspective] establishes … a formal separation between a subject who sees the world and the world that is seen, and in so doing it sets the stage, as it were, for that retreat or withdrawal of the self from the world which characterizes the dawn of the modern age. Ensconced behind the window the self becomes an observing subject, a spectator, as against a world which becomes a spectacle, an object of vision.” (Romanyshyn, p42)

Distance: visually involved the scene, but physically apart from it.
Carleton Watkins, View of the campus, UC Berkeley, 1874

Gives the sense of looking at your own land, looking over it.




“Perspective creates distance between human beings and things … but then in turn it abolishes this distance by, in a sense, drawing this world of things … into the eye.” (Panofsky, p67)

“In a sense, perspective transforms [real] space into mathematical space. … It forgets that we see not with a single fixed eye but with two constantly moving eyes … It takes no account of the enormous difference between the psychologically conditioned ‘visual image’ through which the visible world is brought to our consciousness, and the mechanically conditioned ‘retinal image’ which paints itself upon our physical eye.” (Panofsky, p31)

 Descartes: ‘I think therefore I am’ (1619)

  • “therefore” is the nature of the subject.
  • Exercises doubt- reflecting nature of existence.
  • Discounts objects- thinking only guarantees existence “I am”.

Descartes model of self is conceptually linked to Alberti’s model of vision.
“Almost two centuries before Descartes will establish the philosophical grounds of a … self, separated from the world, the … eye of the artist has already prepared the space for that achievement.” (Romanyshyn p42)
“When [Descartes] says ‘I think therefore I am,’ he simply articulates in philosophical language that distance from the body which the geometry of linear perspective vision has already created.” (Romanyshyn p48)

Perspectival or ‘Cartesian’ arguments state that body and world belong to matter, while self belongs to mind.
‘I see therefore I am’
Camera vision implies a similarly distanced, disembodied self.
“The camera is the technological incarnation of the linear perspective eye.” (Romanyshyn p57)

We can see, but we can’t touch…
“It [is] possible to be a voyeur before an image and yet to be deaf to its reality.”
(Kevin Robins, Into the Image, 1996)

Images such as this are displayed so often on the internet, in newspapers and on TV that we have become desensitised to it. The reality just doesn’t register.



Camera Obscura
Athanasius Kircher, camera obscura, 1649

The camera obscura “defines an observer as isolated, enclosed, and autonomous within its dark confines. It [implies] a … withdrawal from the world … it is a figure for both the observer who is  … a free sovereign individual and a privatized subject … cut off from a public exterior world.” (Crary p39)

The camera obscura- a metaphor for consciousness.

Mind-body dualism – the mind as ‘Cartesian theatre’

The Cartesian theatre as mind was considered that the world was seen through the eyes and then projected into closed chamber of the mind which was a place to analyse the information.
Our brain doesn’t work this way, we do not always process things this way, our body can do things without us telling it to. For example, goose bumps aren’t something we tell our body do to or something we think about, it just happens.

Knowledge is acquired not by immersion in the world of material things, but secondarily, by means of representations…
Perspectival vision is an “analytical vision which decomposes the whole into parts, a vision whose power lies in its ability to isolate, decontextualize and anatomize the world.” (Romanyshyn p77)


Eadweard Muybridge, Galloping Horse, 1878

Before Muybridge it was common belief that the moment when all four of the horses legs while running was when they were all stretched apart, when in fact it’s when they’re feet are curled in on itself.


Jean Louis Géricault. The Derby at Epson, 1821

Géricault’s painting is an example of how they thought horses looked when they galloped. Here photography has shown the reality that we cannot necessarily see with our own eyes and has created a photographic truth.

“The photograph reduplicates the world and in time even comes to displace it, taking on the character of what is true and what is real. Seeing is believing, we say, a maxim which was unimaginable prior to the invention of linear perspective vision. And with the camera we have further qualified this vision: not any seeing is believing, but only that seeing which duplicates the neutrality and impartiality of the camera eye.” Romanyshyn63

I, as a photographer feel disconnected to my subject when looking through the camera. Specifically, when I think of my own series Canary Wharf, because I felt this disconnection to the world I think that it gave me the courage to step out and take the pictures I wanted to. I wasn’t seeing the world through my own eyes but the camera’s eye.