Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cameras as metaphors

In John Fuller's latest collection, Pebble & I, there is a poem called "Small Room in a Hotel", which begins with this quatrain:

In this cool cube of marble
I am valid but invisible

As an image caught in a camera

But not yet reproduced.

This reminded me of another passage about photography that I recently came across, in "Old Soul Song (for the New World Order)" on the Bright Eyes album I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. (There are a bunch of videos of live performances of the song on YouTube, but mostly pretty low quality audience shots.) After a first verse about a demonstration, the second verse reads:

We left before the dust had time to settle,
And all the broken glass swept off the avenue.

And on the way home held your camera like a bible,

Just wishing so bad that it held some kind of truth.

And I stood nervous next to you in the dark room
You dropped the paper in my water,
And it all begins to bloom.

So what happens to how the taking of pictures is used as a metaphor when one moves from developing film to processing digital images? Fuller's quatrain could be digital, but the way in which an image in a digital camera has not yet been reproduced is quite different from how an undeveloped image waits to be developed in a film camera. And the Bright Eyes lyric is, in a sense, already out of date, since almost anyone attending a demonstration these days would have a digital camera in hand. So you would not have to wait to develop the pictures to see if "it held some kind of truth," since you could look at the pictures on the camera's screen on your way home.

1 comment:

Mark Granier said...

That's very true Andrew. The availability of those marvelous metaphors (camera as box/room, etc., coupled with the magical darkroom processing) have been part of the vernacular for well over a century, as has the idea of the camera as a vehicle for truth/witness. The latter still holds power to some extent, but who knows for how long. Will probably write something about this on my Lightbox blog. Thanks.