Thursday, 11 April 2013

Reviving the Lens

“I’m an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world the way only I can see it. I free myself for today and forever from human immobility. I’m in constant movement. I approach and pull away from objects. I creep under them. I move alongside a running horse’s mouth. I fall and rise with the falling and rising of bodies. This is I, the machine, maneuvering in the chaotic movements, recording one movement after another in the most complex combinations. “

“Freed from the boundaries of time and space, I co-ordinate and all points of the universe, wherever I want them to be. My way leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I explain in a new way the world unknown to you”
-Dziga Vertov, 1923 p.10 Berger
on the film camera

We are now very used to whipping out our phones or cameras to take a photo or shoot a film. There is little effort involved and we are quite at home with recording our daily lives almost to the point of becoming the spectator rather than the lead in our own lives. Of course filming and photography were not always so simple. At the beginning of the last century it was new, laborious, expensive and time consuming. It was an event. 

Dziga Vertov's "The Man with the Movie Camera" 1929

Like the art movements of Cubism and Surrealism, the movie camera changed the focus of an image, forcing the viewer to look at a larger number of stimuli that quickly move the spectator through the narrative as opposed to painting or sculpture, where the meaning can be pondered at a leisurely pace. This forces the fragmentation of the subject rather than the alienation of the subject. Filmmaking, which started as a reflective approach to narrative, soon gave way to a highly subjective, fragmented use in media.

We are now so used to these mediums that we take it for granted. At the same time we still yearn for the effects of the past, though now it is in a handy app. The artists below have found ways to appreciate and continue to pay homage to the old methods of photography. 

David Lo, a street photographer, gives a tutorial on how to digitise a vintage camera. With this new configuration, using a digital camera on the back an old camera a new hybrid is created. The vintage camera used must have bellows or an adjustable lens to work in concert with the apparatus of the digital lens. The experience of shooting with this modified camera, the weight, the focusing, light leakage all lead to an overall different experience than what you would get when using a retro process on your phone. While some might gasp in horror at defacing an old camera, I enjoy the idea of giving it another life and using it once again for the purpose for which it was made. You can do this or leave it on a shelf gathering dust. And while some rarer cameras I would leave as is, for a retro/art/photography enthusiast this is a great way to give an old camera a new lease on life and to appreciate the process of taking a photo while still keeping the instant nature and plethora of images that come with the digital age. 

see the full tutorial at:

These wondrous art pieces above were created by Guangzhou Art Academy student Hu Shaoming over a period of four months for the exhibition Reconnecting Time. He dissembled two cameras and rebuilt them with a zipper to show the "magic" of each device so we can clearly see how the "great industrial discoveries of humanity" work.

Again, some people may be horrified that he destroyed a piece of history. But again, you cannot really get film to make it work, and most people just collect these cameras for display. So instead of letting them sit there static, Hu Shaoming has created a work of art that exposes the mystery and lets us appreciate the delicate inner workings of the camera, a land breaking invention that allowed us to perfectly record our lives and freed painters from being merely realistic recorders of history.

Instead with the advent of photography and film this anchor of reality was no longer needed in the world and resulted into what we now know as modern art.

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