Saturday, October 16, 2021

Intemporal Surreality

"It must be confessed, however, that Perception, and that which depends upon it, are inexplicable by mechanical causes, that is to say, by figures and motions. Supposing that there were a machine whose structure produced thought, sensation, and perception, we could conceive of it as increased in size with the same proportions until one was able to enter into its interior, as he would into a mill. Now, on going into it he would find only pieces working upon one another, but never would he find anything to explain Perception."

G.W. Leibniz (1646 - 1716)

Postscript. Or, to paraphrase a well-known aphorism by physicist Werner Heisenberg (and italicizing my photo-centric alteration), "...what we observe and communicate is not nature in itself, but nature exposed to, and transformed by, our method of capturing it with our camera." Keeping with the same themes and questions that underlie my last two posts (i.e., how to best "capture" New Hampshire's gorgeous autumnal colors during a recent "long weekend" trip), one can start off by saying - tautologically - that any image I chose to capture must, by fiat, represent a particular slice of nature that I saw (through my lens). But how much of my experience of the totality of a given scene (the ambient conditions, light, sound, my state of mind, etc.) remains attached to whatever image(s) I chose to use to represent it? How much (or how little) of any of this is communicated and interpreted as such by the viewer? And, what can I do to instantiate and intensify this experience (for the viewer)? Of course, these kinds of questions have been asked since the dawn of photography, with no easy answers; from Alfred Stieglitz's equivalents to Minor White's admonition to take pictures of "what else" things are. The triptych communicates my early-afternoon experience at a quiet little roadside pond (that, objectively speaking, hardly even merits a "label" on a map; it is "just" a spot on the road from point A to point B on a nondescript stretch of a local highway) far better than any single image does. It does so in two ways: first, because it displays not one but several simultaneous and distinct but related views of the same scene, it gently insists that the viewer "fill in the gaps" in her own mind; which cannot be done except by imaging what it must of have been like to stand there taking these pictures (not to duplicate my experience, but to imagine what it was like, transformed by the viewer's own predilections); and second, because none of the individual images show off the colorful trees directly, but via reflection only (and using a slightly longer-than-normal time exposure, as well), there is an implied intemporal surreality (at least I hope that that is the impression it conveys), which is close to what I was "really feeling" when I took these shots. In the end, and as presaged by Leibniz wise words, it all boils down to the primacy and ineffability of perception. And to the even deeper question of who's "doing" the perceiving? 

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