‘Seeing, and not Seeing’ by Amarjit Chandan


Everybody was busy recording the Olympic torch relay
through the glass lens, except for two curious children

‘The camera relieves us of the burden of memory. … The camera records in order to forget. … All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. … Paintings record what the painter remembers.’
John Berger
In ‘About Looking’ (1980) and ‘Photocopies’ (1996)

In Spitalfields, East Lon¬don, hardly anybody was watching Olympic torch relay with the naked eye. They were all busy record¬ing the event through the glass lens, taking pictures, except for two curious small children. Watchful security was part of the spectacle. The camera was the screen between the eye and the event. The torchbearer was not the centre of attention (who was he?), the torch was – held high with the flame hardly visible in day light. They were filming live theatre. The void.

What was really happening? Was it a paradox of perception — seeing and not seeing at the same time? Why we don’t see any more as we used to up until only a generation ago? The world we experience around us is no longer free of all mechanical optic equipment. In events such as these, we tend to lose pres¬ence and postpone our palpable collective experience hoard¬ing digital images in memory cards (the highest capacity for flash memory cards is currently 128GB) to see them later seen through a tunnelled viewfinder – which is not first-hand experi¬ence — it is virtual, partial, and flat.
A glass lens ranging from fisheye to panoramic field of view has replaced 180-degree forward-facing horizontal field of view of an individual human eye.

Perhaps one of the spectators was a painter. One day he would draw the scene in the photo¬graph he collected retracing it on the canvas. Photographic memory?
Has the camera made our experiences richer?

IMAGE AND WORDS BY AMARJIT CHANDAN

First Published at
Daily Post, Chandigarh 19/08/2012
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