04 September 2010

Paris Journal: Entry 3



If one is to really work seriously and mindfully with a (video) camera, it has to be something about how one sees or casts one’s vision onto things. The “eye” of the camera: does it “will” or dominate what is to be seen? How naïve to think the camera can stand in for or mimic the fleeting, fitful improvisation of the actual gaze. But then what characterizes the/my gaze? Pensive long shots? Careful close-up scrutiny? A fleeting skimming of surfaces?  A scanning and close mapping of depth, dimensionality, the 3-D movie of life?

But it’s not about a responsibility to nail down THE WAY, the one true way of seeing with camera—rather a celebration of being lost in the pleasure of seeing—out of which one constructs a kind of lucid visual poetics: one that comes ever closer to one’s own way of seeing.  Seeing is encounter, is doing, is a dance of relationship:  a tango, a contact improvisation and weight-sharing. The eye becomes a fluent, flexible muscle, not locked into one mode but both yielding and in command.

OR is this camera business all about how I WANT TO BE SEEN? How I see myself? I set up the shot, I perform for the camera, to make you see how I want you to see me. And does it follow that I want to show you how I see? (And what about this slippage between an impersonal “one” and the personal “I” (eye)? How do I move into generalizations or lay down the law, preach the theoretical, maintain the scholarly distance as required by the international journal police?)

High over the Atlantic on the red-eye to Paris, I view rows of small flat screens mounted to the backs of the seats glowing like the regiments of deer caught in the beam of Dad’s station wagon lights penetrating the edge of a forest in northern Michigan on an autumn weekend outing in 1957—or perhaps more like an empty infotech office at night with orderly aisles of computers left on. These screens are windows into stories told (all programmed to their own movie or TV sit com) to keep us from going crazy in confined spaces (in our skins) while being transported between time zones. The camera serves an epistemology of clichés; I survey eyes blinking one edit to the next, a silent polyphony provided by Hollywood editors while approaching Paris. Imagine Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” with a camera mounted on its nose, and the footage of people running towards the plane in the pre-dawn not believing what they see—all seeing the same approaching apparition, framing and capturing the image forever, for themselves, and the pilot, scanning a hundred faces scattered across the runway, each its own camera, its own picture indelibly framed and captured—and then all together, full frame.

I’m so weary I am dizzy. Jet lag. I hope I’ll sleep tonight!

9/4:I awaken to the silver glow of the morning sun on the eastern flanks of Notre Dame. Church bells cut through the dull roar of the traffic, and a Metro rumbles deep below the streets. I must capture the sunrise and sunset on the spires of Notre Dame with time-lapse video. Just set up the tripod and aim the camera out my window! A direct shoot.