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Surveillance

October 30, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I have no camera. It went dead. It may be the battery; I'll find out tomorrow. Like an idiot, I don't have a card reader with me, but today I took an interesting picture, so, not being able to show it to you, I will tell you about it.

I opened the curtain this morning, before sunrise, to check the weather. Four inches of drifting snow. I was trying to figure out how to get out of this motel before the snowplows came. The streetlights shone down on the tops of trucks, emphasizing their perspective. In the distance, incredibly, a lone figure, carrying two bags, struggled down the road on foot. In the far distance, trucks moving slowly down the expressway. 

He or she turned and trudged toward the hotel. I took a picture of the trucks, the streetlights, and the figure. I was on the third floor, looking out over a scene that is not what one would consider "scenic." 

The lone person was a bit blurry, ape-like, with arms and legs. The photo's angle and apparent randomness made it look like a surveillance picture. By virtue of being in this picture, the person seemed sinister. 

Everyone in surveillance pictures seems sinister. The surveillance camera is a machine, disinterested in artistry. Its superior angle makes humans seem small.

There was a time when photos spoke of artists, of the lone, human observer, and were generally considered art, in part for that reason. Photographers love to talk about a particular photographer's vision, about processes of selection and framing shots. But the connection between the brain of the photographer and the image produced has always seemed a bit shaky. 

We are getting used to seeing surveillance pictures. We are now capable of disconnecting the act of seeing from the act of knowing and judging, disconnecting from the human mind's capability to decide what is good to look at and what is not. 

Some would say that I am wrong to believe that there are things that should not be photographed. Yet many pictures taken on September 11, 2001 have not been publicly displayed. I am not a surveillance camera; there are things that make me turn away, and I assume others would, as well.

But in the future, everything will be recorded, from the bombings of cities to a ripple in a field grass, if there are fields of grass in the future. 

I don't have a camera right now for reasons that I don't yet even begin to understand. But I fear that it is actually dead. It was eight years old, and it has served me well. If it's gone, it will be like losing a body part.  

The camera has an electrical problem, or the battery does, or the camera has simply gone to Jesus and joined the Choir Celestial. I don't know. The fact is, the camera is--or was--several thousand times smarter than I am. Probably. So little that we mere humans know for sure. 

Postscript: I have since replaced the camera and found the picture I've described here. 

 

 

 

 


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