Posted by: emmadamato | September 22, 2010

hey liar, photography

I was thinking a lot about the transition between the reflection and the photograph. The eye functions as a reflection. The reflection created in a mirror or otherwise reflective surface has become how one knows one self. It becomes a projection of self, and a defining element in a sense of identity. More and more in the contemporary landscape the reflection seems to be replaced by the photograph. Memory and identity of yourself or others is now intertwined in the overwhelming amount of photographs available of everyone and anything. The challenge of knowing your own reflection is being threatened by a less forgiving form of permanence. The individual eye, self-reflection, is becoming null and void. The best part is, it was never really important how you saw your self in regards to other people. Take Ester’s narrative, her constant self-deprecation undermines her voice and all the while her character believes this is the only way to be truthful. It is the photograph’s honesty that makes it a true villain. I believe that reality is ultimately relative but a photograph stops fluidity of memory and truth.

Whenever I think about photography I usually get to thinking about this one Diane Arbus photograph

Diane Arbus is known as a champion of the freaks, but she nothing but a manipulator. When you see the negative sheet you realize he was just a playful little boy, she turns his identity into something more sinister. Arbus made a living selling the grotesque. All photography honors the absurd in its clarity. It is an insult to the eye.

People are too trustful of photographs. The mystery and impermanence of the reflection is better friend to memory.


  1. I question your declaration that “The eye functions as a reflection.” and perhaps because I’m not quite sure I understand what you are saying there, but when I think of the functions of the eye, I suppose I take them more literally – and “reflection” tends to be associated more with the thought than the initial taking in of the image. I don’t necessarily believe that “…the reflection seems to be replaced by the photograph” – I rather think reflection is often complemented by photographs, and expressed in photographs.

    The point that “All photography honors the absurd in its clarity. It is an insult to the eye.” is one that also feels dissonant to me on several levels. The clause “all photography honors the absurd” seems reductionist– aren’t there photographers that question the absurd? Or those who simply want to observe the absurd? Or even those who exploit the absurd? If we are limiting photography only to expressions of the absurd. And when you bring up “clarity, “do you mean the literal clarity of the image on photo paper? To pull this together, going from “All photography honors the absurd…It is an insult to the eye” strikes me as rather insulting to “photography” in its many facets and the possibilities it offers. Likewise, I question “It is the photograph’s honesty that makes it a true villain,” because I happen to think photographs makes reflections a bit more interesting, and often express reflections – whether in subtle or exaggerated forms. As long as the photographer is honest in what he/she wants to express in a piece, whether or not that photograph is honest to the subject is another issue entirely, but certainly doesn’t make the photograph a villain, right?

    I think Arbus’s photographs are very intentional, and I don’t think she created her images so much to create a lie out of an innocent scenario, than to take that figure and make a story of her own to draw in an audience — you could say this about any film or photo project that has ever been done — and as long as the intention is reflected in the artist’s mission, I don’t think anyone is being lied to. Perhaps if it was presented as something with journalistic intent, then I would take umbrage. And yes, she was controversial for her images of “freaks” and oddities, and manipulated situations to “make a living out of the grotesque” – Plenty of artists have done that, and not at the expense of reflection. I would argue that “impermanence” is inescapable, but not necessarily a friend to memory – but really, I don’t think any memory is stable. Every thought, after all, is couched in the context and consciousness the thinker exists in, right? And every memory made within such contexts. I suppose at the end of it all, I would say photographs are reflections, if anything, themselves.

    Well, that was a bit of a longer rant than I intended, and a bit nitpickier…but I hope some of that makes sense?

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