The photograph is the result of light painting itself. The painting is the action of the hand showing. In the former case, there is no translation involved in beholding the objet d’art: light paints itself on the photographic film/sensor and the result is seen by the eyes which function through the transmission of the same light as it is reflected from the objet d’art onto the eyes’ retinas. In the latter case, though, there occurs a translation, from the result of a motoric act to a perceptive act which requires light. Needless to say, ‘the photographic’ is capably present in both types of objets d’art. If we now decisively part ways with painting and strictly follow the path of the photograph, this decision requested solely due to logistical issues (this happens to be a blog that deals mainly with the art of photography) rather than because of any incongruences that might hypothetically crop up when the ensuing argument is applied to the art of painting, we see that the process objectivity-subjectivity is neatly held in unitary form in the art of taking a photograph. Surely enough, the object photographed is somewhat and somehow invested by the photographer, but this investiture never fully occludes informative light… never, unless we happen to be working in the digital domain, in which case, if, as postulated by Descartes, “thought consists of clear and distinct elements (concepts) that are combined in the thought process like beads on an abacus, in which every concept signifies a point in the extended world out there” (FLUSSER 2000:67), then I only need to feign to locate properly and illuminate correctly each point (aka pixel) in res cogitans (aka the image canvas in Photoshop) that purportedly happens to map some corresponding point in some fictitious res extensa to capably and believably (re-[?])create an image of reality. 

If every point in res cogitans corresponds to a point in res extensa, to think would mean to know. Accordingly, perception and action would be made possible (since in such a hypothetical state thought would cover all knowledge then it would be perfectly plausible to postulate that in such a state it would be possible to see and do everything). With this mapping relegated to the non-thinking photography apparatus, the blind automaticity common to both apparatus and its functionary gives rise to more and more redundant images. 

“Cameras know everything and are able to do everything in a universe that was programmed in advance for this knowledge and ability” (FLUSSER 2000:68).

Perception and Action are thus annihilated.

On the other hand, the informed photograph vests light with its Ding an sich, its Ding an sich namely being the photograph.

Knowledge is ignorance, and ignorance is bliss.

Featured Image:

Vilhelm Pedersen (1820 – 1859), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


FLUSSER, Vilém. 2000. Towards a Philosophy of Photography. London: Reaktion Books.