Drawing Time: Perspective

“The universe is an aggregate of non-simultaneous and only partially overlapping events” 

- Estelle Jussim,(51)

In Before Photography Peter Gallassi discusses the social context of the invention of photography.  Although all the technology to produce photography was present before the eighteenth century, it was the large amount of what he describes as ‘Speculative tinkering’ that spawned the photograph as we know it.(Gallassi, 11)

From The Instant Garden Series, 2009

From The Instant Garden Series, 2009


The camera, as a tool was creating a new standard of pictorial logic, offering the possibility of automatically producing perfect perspective which was in itself the product of a tradition of Western pictorial tradition. Describing the ‘four-hundred-odd years of perspective’s hegemony over Western painting (ibid.13) he says that the differences in the use of perspective form a ‘coherent history’ in the way that painters conceived the role of vision in art. This history he describes as a ‘complex but continuous development of the normative visual scheme’ (Ibid.14) based upon the development of pictorial tools. 

In The Ontology of the Photographic Image, Andre Bazin describes perspective as the ‘original sin’ of Western painting, leading to a quandary between aesthetics and representation; the former a spiritual reality, the latter a psychological need (The Camera Viewed, Vol 2, p.142). Perspective, says Bazin, did not solve the problem of movement and realism was ‘forced to continue the search for some way of giving dramatic expression to the moment’.

Photography’s disruption to this history is discussed by Joanna Lowry in her essay, ‘History, allegory, technologies of Vision’ (History Painting Reassessed, ed. David Green)  Referring to an essay by Jeff Wall on the work of Manet, Lowry discusses Wall’s theory of “an increasingly alienated relationship between bodies and the space they inhabit” produced as a result of the fragmentation of the individual subject under the laws of capitalism. 

Wall’s argument is that the emergence of modern industrial society resulted in the commodification of the body through the new systems of industrial capitalism. In addition, the emergence of photography was a threat to painting as it “revealed it’s own technical presence within the concept of the picture” (Wall) which had hitherto been conceived as internally structured using perspective. Wall argues that the transgressive fragmentation of the laws of classical perspective in Manet’s paintings shows a recognition that this previously unquestioned structure was under threat. 

In Revisions, Ian Jeffrey discusses the change of perspective that took place in the Modernist Era where technological advances lead to changing attitudes and ways of visualizing space. He says, ‘An apple or an orange in 1907 was something in essence desirable and edible; whereas in the 1920s and increasingly into the thirties, it featured in ‘Modernist’ art as a moveable item in an arrangement’ (Jeffrey, 88). Jeffrey explains this change in attitude to a different way of thinking: Modernists, he suggests, thought in terms of ‘room space’, not the ‘deep space’ of the Renaissance, and more shallow than the proscenium arch. The influence of photography was to introduce a ‘scene’ with moveable parts, with any number of productions and performances. He suggest that this new ‘relativism’ came out of an acceptance of the theory of relativity. 



Drawing and Time:Notes on Time and Photography

The Instant Garden, 2009

The Instant Garden, 2009

From the beginning of the medium, photographers recorded moments in time, as well as images of people and places. An examination of the history of photography reveals how representation of movement and perspective lead to a new conceptualisation of Time through photography. Below is a survey of some of the key texts in Photographic Theory, along with others by philosophers on how our concept of Time changed with the development of photographic visual language. 




1. Movement

Marey.gif

In the mid Nineteenth century, the first and second laws of thermodynamics created a new backdrop for understanding the body; the discovery of energy as indestructible changed the view of nature from static to dynamic and energetic. The discoveries of electricity and electromagnetism created a new view of the body as a field of energies...read more





perspective.jpg

2. Perspective

In Before Photography Peter Gallassi discusses the social context of the invention of photography.  Although all the technology to produce photography was present before the eighteenth century, it was the large amount of what he describes as ‘Speculative tinkering’ that spawned the photograph as we know it...read more



3. Linear Time

lineartime.jpg

The experiments of Muybridge and Marey were undeniably of the greatest importance to the development of cinema. Jeffrey describes the ‘controlled aspect’ of the scientific experimentation of Muybridge and Marey as the aspect that links Animal locomotion (the publication by Muybridge in 1887) to Modernism as it was conceived in the 1920: ‘an aesthetic of control and management in which humanity, marshalled by designers, rehearses for a utopian destiny’...read more


4. Time as Illusion

In Death 24 x a Second, Laura Mulvey describes the new secular materialism that grew out of the Enlightenment project, created a new entertainment industry in illusions and uncanny experiences; a ‘new mechanical uncanny’ (40) creating. The history of illusion is a history of producing this effect.; an ‘instantaneous encounter’ with something the mind cannot explain, which exploits our repressed fear of the dead…