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Embodiment & Photography

Photography is always a selection of views, tightly editing out what is not selected. This selection is so dominant in photography as a practice that it also limits extra unlikely information that a photo could convey. For example, traditional practices in photography do not reveal much about the posture of the photographer. Photography has always been oriented on the subject, less so on the agent capturing the subject on film. Photography is often thought of as being primarily visual and primarily about the photograph, it is less about the process of capturing the photograph (perhaps with the exception of miksang and photojournalism). But exploring the body of the photographer through the data captured in the photograph might be a fruitful inquiry into the body and it's connection with perception.

The following work is an exploration of how embodiment and movement affect each other, and how action drives perception in the filmic record. This "glance" photography and the guidelines for capturing "glances" tells a story of the dance of visual perception; where the body goes the eyes go, how the body moves directs the gaze, perception is always an action. 

glance is an unstudied frame that captures a moment of routinized, but non-planned visual apprehension.

Glance photography is a framework for perceptually relevant photographs from the perspective of embodied cognition.

A glance is meant to capture a fleeting moment of focus on a small detail that happens to pass across the visual field while the body is in motion.  It is a still taken from a perpetual point-of-view film.  A glance is meant to create the feeling of a dreamlike scene which cuts context away from detail while bringing detail to the center of attention.

Glances capture moments of the everyday with a loving warmth creating a strong emotive appeal for the routine and familiar.  This is the habitat of the photographer. 

Glances are doorways into the life-ways of a photographer, they are autobiographical in that they tell the story of the photographer in a way that staged images do not; glances capture a moment of familiarity that is normally ignored by the viewfinder. 

Memory is capriciously selective, it is only slivers of a scene that are remembered, and these are often brief visual captures of seemingly meaningless detail. During a remembered moment in your kitchen you might remember the counter top and the material it was made of, but forget entirely what was resting on that counter during the memory scene.  Dreams are similar, seemingly insignificant details become focal points within the dream structuring the narrative of the dream when in waking life these details may of little consequence.  The subconscious works to tell it’s tale with these glance-like details as the visual scenery.  If a glance is already a part of remembering and dreaming, both natural processes, there is a validation for pursuing a disciplined approach to capturing glances photographically.


32 Guidelines for Capturing Glances:

  1. Glances are products of routine embodiment in a space or place, atypical bodily contortions are dispreferred. 
  2. Glances are nearly dreamlike, visions of moments, spontaneous saccades across a scene - they approximate real-time eye-tracking in slow time photographic capture.
  3. Glances can capture moments of pleasure, favorite micro-vistas and view-sheds, turns of corners, turns of heads, moments of focus, moments of blur, emotive moments of happy memories.  
  4. Composition is a fact of the actual arrangement in space of particular objects from an actual vantage point, not an intentional manipulation of frame or vantage point on the part of the photographer. The cultural preference of photographers toward a type of composition that is professionally learned will turn up in glance captures, this is an index of the photographer’s identity, an insight into their personal way of seeing the world.
  5. Subject matter can be mundane or exceptional, provided the glance captures an on-line moment of vision rather than a staged moment.
  6. It is permitted to take multiple shots of the same frame until the desired clarity, lighting, and focus are brought to the shot - but those characteristics should match (as closely as possible) the clarity, lighting, and focus of the original apprehension unmediated by the camera lens.
  7. A glance must originate from an actual canonically-normal body position for the environment in which the glance is captured.  If the photographer is engaged in a task that serves a purpose other than gaining a better vantage point on the scene and happens upon a glance, it is permitted that the photographer recreates the posture necessary to obtain the glance capture.  For instance, if the photographer happens upon a glance while picking up a dropped spoon underneath of a table, the photographer may return to that position under the table to capture the glance.
  8. Glances should strive to capture reflections when they occur, but should not be overly rigid in rendering the exact reflection at the moment of visual apprehension of the glance.  For instance, if the reflection is of a passing car it is not necessary to capture the exact passing car, only a representative car is required.
  9. Glances should glorify the notion of fleeting time and should incorporate elements that indicate the passage of time such as running water, light-spillage, shadows.
  10. Glances should treat passage through space with honesty, capturing motion where motion exists, but not rendering an entire scene with motion when only portions of the scene were factively in motion.  For instance, a glance of the floor while turning a corner at the bottom of a set of stairs will keep the corner of the wall stationary while the floor appears to be in motion.  The motion of the floor serves as a proxy to represent the point of view of the agent in motion - while the agent in motion is passing around the corner the floor appears out of focus as the intentionality of the agent is focused on movement through rather than movement over a space.  
  11. If the photographer is focused on movement over a space, blurring the space will not accurately capture the intentionality of the agent and another way of construing motion must be sought out.
  12. Angles of frame may be used as tools to indicate a turn in the axial orientation of the photographer.  Angles sloping toward the left indicate a leftward downward turn on the part of the photographer.  Angles sloping towards the right indicate a rightward downward turn on the part of the photographer. It is difficult to understand the directionality of a slope, whether it slopes downward to the left or upward to the right - if the figural element of the glance is above eye level, the slope is upward.  If the figural element of the glance is below eye level, the slope is downward. Angles originate in relative frames of reference and should be used to convey the notion of the photographer as the relative origio-viewpoint of a glance.
  13. Conventional rules of composition will leak into glance capture, partly because photographers are vigilant to scene, and partly because photographers are limited in their scope of the world - only ever interpreting the world through a lens of accretion of preference and oneupmanship. This is to be tolerated by critics; perhaps even received by critics (who are outsiders unless they are also photographers) as insider instruction on how to view the world through the perspective of the photographer. This is the emic-etic distinction in glance structure appreciation.
  14. The bodily limitations of the photographer leak into the glance. Viewing a glance enables a viewer of different disposition, posture, and bodily composition to exploit viewpoint as contained in the capture as a way to embody the photographer, becoming a viewer behind the eyes of the photographer.  Glances are transfers of embodiment in ways differently than other composed shots because the photographer is restricted in what may be done to obtain a glance, they are restricted to what their body dictates is natural.  in this way, glances are currency for perspective and are unreflective artifacts of mind.
  15. Because glances are restricted by the body of the photographer and the photographer’s natural encounter of the world, should a glance be viewed with software for image analytics, or by the eyes of an animal, the viewpoint as artifact of mind becomes a script for the computer or animal to recreate the visual stimuli in such a way as to understand something of the mind of the photographer; in this way glances may be thought of as post-human scripts.  A caveat here is that the visual system of animals and computational vision algorithms do not have the same organization as the fairly stable species-specific human eye apparatus.  This variance across species and technology is a moment of emergence in which the glance becomes part of a generative process which the photographer will be unable to observe. 
  16. It is commendable to entreat animals and computers to view glances as a form of emergent collaborative activity.
  17. Conventional ideas of figure-ground organization as elements of perception are not cancelled out by glance capture, human attentional systems require figures when disorientation is not a stable state. These figures are not merely visual, but occur across perceptual and conceptual modalities. Glances are typically visual, but should be captured in ways that evoke cross-modal experience of the glance. Temporal figures, sonic figures, haptic figures, figures of temperature, figures of theme, gustatorial figures, proprioceptive figures, olfactory figures, and lucid figures can be evoked in glance capture because visual cues act as prompts for unpacking cognitive simulation.
  18. Glances should be oriented on participant viewpoint rather than spectator viewpoint, unless participant viewpoint includes a scene which casts the photographer as spectator.  In such cases, the spectator viewpoint is secondary to the participant viewpoint and is nested as a layer of meaning.
  19. Glances should imply agency on the part of the original scene viewer (i.e., that a real agent captured the glance) so as to cast the scene as a glance that happened in an online relationship to the world.  Glances should not explicitly specify an agent and should not include agent shadows, body parts, reflections, or extensions of body (hat brims, clothing, shoes, pointing sticks, utensils, tools, or other agent-controlled elements).
  20. The scene of a glance should not interact with the photographer-agent. Dogs must not be seen as engaging with the photographer, expressions on people’s faces must not reflect engaged awareness of the photographer. Because glances are fleeting private moments, the world should not engage the photographer - instead the photographer should be the agent engaging the world, reaching out with the eyes so as to capture a view-shed as a glance.
  21. Glancing is like grasping time
  22. Glancing is an emanating force from within the agent that reaches out to a moment and attempts to hold a moment as an object.
  23. Glances are objects in an object-oriented ontology.
  24. Glances have as many forms of meta-data as they have ontological relations
  25. Glances are tools of simulation - they can be used to evoke cognition that deceives the viewer of the glance artifact; this is a trick of the trade: long leading lines that coextensively traverse a scene in a glance serve to draw the attention of the viewer along that line in a sort of fictive motion.
  26. Glances are not limited to still-photography.  They can be used in animations, representative 2D art forms, film, and 3D imagery.  It is even possible for a glance to be realized in 4D representation, with time being the fourth dimension. However, by definition, the time element will be extremely short, last only as long as the glance itself lasted as an original experience.
  27. Glances of scenes should exclude context from the frame. In online perception scenes are experienced as having a stable ground and an unstable figure. As in other compositional strategies, a glance is a capture of an unstable figure at a given point in time.  In typical human attention, what is figure consistently changes from moment to moment; while looking at a complex scene a person may focus on one object in the scene before focusing on another object in the scene - this change between objects of focus is how attention shifts between figures in a scene.  Any one of those figural shifts introduces a new potential glance.  
  28. When the body is in motion the eyes are also moving across or through space, and the elements that they see are changed as the vantage point changes, a glance freezes this motion for a particular scene from a particular vantage point.  In a stretch of film, a glance is a single frame.
  29. A glance should seek to capture scenes that highlight some figure in the frame but which exclude the contextual ground by way of zooming, so as to approximate the eye’s ability to create figures by applying focused attention to elements in the world.  For instance, while walking past a room full of people, perhaps a glance captures a handbag slung across a shoulder, but it does not capture a room that is full of people - the scale of a glance is the scale of focused attention. In the perceptual field, a photographer may be aware of the sweeping context of a scene, but may attend to the fringe on a rug as a figure during a brief glance, thus excluding the rug itself, the coffee table, the arrangement of furniture, the architectural qualities of the room, potential inhabitants of the room, etc.  Glances are captured figures.
  30. The geometry of a glance considered in the context of motion through space is part of the metadata that a glance has.
  31. In a photo, a glance is best captured in landscape rather than portrait, given the wider angle permitted by the landscape format.
  32. An aesthetic of glances requires that glances should never bear pain, but should be instruments of the therapeutic process, this renders the ethics of glances as tools of well-being.