Camera Obscura Discussion

The articles I read from Empyre were from the discussion on “Camera Obscura,” which focused on the separation of scientific and philosophical understandings of the concepts of perception. I was drawn to this particular set of articles as I have always been fascinated by the camera obscura. The way each person used the camera obscura as a starting point into a larger philosophical discussion was inspiring to me. Eventually, I ended up reading the whole discussion on “Camera Obscura.” The point I found most interesting was when Johanna Ducker moved the discussion into proposing a “theory of feminist perspective.” By using the mechanical design of a camera obscura to lay out a way of understanding the feminist perspective, there is a clear understanding of the separation between different viewpoints of reality. This technical device can be used as a physical representation of the way reality is an individualized experience.

Christina McPhee moved to reiterate Ducker’s theory and expand on it. McPhee breaks down the causation of individualized experiences into the three sections of situatedness, partial knowledge, and constructedness. In such, the life experience of each individual’s perception of reality in any given situation is key to the human experience. This account of perception can be ascribed to the feminist point of view as each individual’s background gives them a different understanding of the same situation. Whether they agree or not, two people will never be able to perceive something in the same exact way. Understanding this concept is important in discussions on feminism as it is important to stay unified while also respect each others’ individual understandings of the movement.

While Ducker and McPhee each delve into the representation of different perceptions brought on by the camera obscura, Beatriz Cortez moves to focus on the way in which the camera obscura, and photography in general, can be used to denaturalize our perception of reality. Because the camera obscura flips the image and clearly transforms it in a nonliteral representation, there becomes a separation between image and reality. Because the separation between the image a camera obscura projects is to reality, it opens up a stronger discussion of the definition of reality. She describes this as a new way to “denaturalize” our perception and therefore bring about a new understanding of the world. By creating images that are so clearly separate from the reality they depict, they bring new meaning to the understanding of what an image is. This could be useful when creating new objects, as a deliberate effort to separate the image from reality draws attention to the realities which we perceive. The camera obscura can become a device to visualize the way perception of reality is naturalized. This concept goes along the lines of the idea that breaks in the system are the best ways to draw attention to the system as a whole.

The very different directions each contributor took the idea of the camera obscura actually represent their own arguments. While each person started with the same object, the results of their discussion led them down different paths of understanding the subject. This can be used to understand the way an art installation is interpreted differently by each individual.


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