The process of making many images of a subject, then using software reconstruct the image from the parts is normally not problematic. If done conventionally, the process aims to be seamless and imperceptible in effect. Professionals use digital tools, along with specialized camera-handling-techniques and specific supporting hardware to create panoramic photographs of subjects without specialized cameras, to create time lapse images that show changes over time or build up faint details from many similar images, and may create finished images that are far larger than the single photograph can produce.
In Assemblah the same fundamental process takes place, but while the conventional intent is to perpetuate the singular, hermetic, appearance of a photograph, this body of work attempts to break the photograph into a series of images, leaving traces of the boundaries between them. The effort is intended to be artesanal, the effect both beautiful and subtly disturbed.
Assemblah aims to disarm the viewer of their belief in the mechanical transparency of the camera as witness to an objective truth.
The work assails the naive belief in photography by altering the semiotics we have come to expect in the medium:
- Dissimulating the hermetic, mechanical look-and-feel of camera based images
- Breaking out of the expected elegance of the image circle as cropped by the light sensitive media format, instead rendering ugly formats and impossibly irregular aspect ratios
- Falsifying objective reality
- Extending the lens’s depth of field artisanally
- Extending the lens’s field of view artisanally
- Replacing the singular focal plane found in all photographs with multiple focal planes within one image
- Showing movement in parts of a body while associated parts remain static with regard to a common reference
- Representing several moments in time, not a singular moment in time as convention holds
- Exploring the effects of algorithmic work in assembling one image from an imperfect pool of photographs
- multiple perspectives fused into one frame
- ‘irrational’ focus / out-of-focus within the frame
- attempting to re-create forms extending through many frames
These are assemblies of multiple images of one scene. This is nothing complex – software does the work of stitching the images together, for the most part.
What drew me to the method was the idea of making “photographs” from many photographs. In a sense, I’m curious to find out how far we can stretch the language of photographs as we have known it, and still have what strikes us as “a photograph”.
I’ve long been an antagonist to photography. Or, rather, to our tendency to receive photography as hermetic truth, as proof, as objective. We usually believe that a photograph transcends the limitations of the hand and eye of the photographer while transmitting their mind’s truths and intent. As though, by merely standing in front of something and tripping the shutter, the photographer can and does create a record that has all of the ontological veracity of something mathematical.
My favorite example of this tendency in humans is the example of someone holding up a snapshot of someone and asserting, “that’s (so and so)”. This behavior is completely, seemingly, natural to us, and completely wrong. “That” is no more your aunt or parent or, whomever, than the word “pizza” can fill your stomach. It is but a piece of paper with patterns of highlights and shadows in forms which we feel we resemble our own direct experiences.
We pass through photographs as the line of sight passes through an opening in a wall.
Ask anyone to interrogate their assumptions about a specific photograph and they will likely agree that some of the “natural” assumptions we make about the image may not be the only way to interpret it. Yet, when unchallenged, we intuitively look at photographs with the tendency to hold no reserves and address ourselves to the image as though it were a mechanical transcription of ground truths at that fraction of a second when the shutter tripped.
This naivete, the compulsive seduction of the viewer, is deeply intriguing. Photography rides the natural biological channels of human perception and sensing and results in this seemingly autonomous response when looking at an image, “that’s Larry and Vivian”.
Well … isn’t it?