Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Photography is unnatural

Many times I read comments saying how much better real life looks like than photographs. For example, people say that "out of focus" isn't part of real life, that blur is something that photography brought to other forms of art or that a rectangular frame is something arbitrary and unnatural. I remember for example this thread on circular photographs which although cool, doesn't really relate to how we perceive the world around as relative to how a camera perceives it. I mean, compare these and figure our if they have to produce a similar image on the sensor, film or retina or not...







I always wonder if people who say that they don't see out of focus in real life have looked at their fingers. If I take the thumb of my left hand and place it ten inches away from my eyes not only I get a background that is out of focus (if you have normal vision) but also a background in which objects appear twice! Diplopia is a natural consequence of us having two eyes, and it's something that this far I haven't seen anybody try to do with a camera. Try a couple of times, it does exist. About the quality of photographs... well... I have always thought that for a moment they are much more precise than our own visual system. After all, the only part of our retina that is particularly sharp and able to perceive colour is the fovea, which is also extremely small. The illusion of a richly coloured world that is entirely in focus and sharp takes places when our eyes move around it constantly and our brain keeps on storing this information. But if you only have the amount of time that a camera employs in taking a picture, it beats us neatly in doing the job of rendering reality as it is, as no needs for scanning the scene are required. Everything gets in in one single neat click. And what about the arbitrary shape of photographs? Oh well, we have two eyes that share part of the visual field, so after all... rather a rectangle than a square...

1 comment:

curdiogenes said...

Though you need stereoscopic glasses to see it, stereoscopic photography kind of tries to achieve this 2 eye thingy. The album art for 10,000 Days by Tool contains some of these images. Two photos are taken at the same time by 2 separate cameras just inches apart from each other. My understanding is that these tow negatives are printed one on top of the other, giving the viewre (whilst wearing the glasses) a 3d effect similar to our own vision. Still rectangular format though. :}