Project 6.1 – The Dispassionate Eye

Marey's 19th century gun-camera

We are surrounded by images and imaging for which there is no discernible author – rather, the image seems to have been automated, pre-determined by some program or script. This project will be an experiment in seeing through such an automated eye.

For class Monday, devise a list of instructions for creating an “un-authored” image. Bring your list printed legibly, and a camera. We’ll spend the first part of class shooting as many images as we can based on people’s instructions, and then view them digitally to discuss where meaning is made in this mode of looking, and how an automated image can leave more or less room for interpretation.

Design your instructions with our computer lab as a starting point, and make them capable of being followed with a simple point and shoot camera. Your instructions can involve detailed technical directives (“Wait exactly 30 seconds before taking the shot”), randomizers (“Close your eyes and shoot”), linguistic instructions (“Walk to the corner of 4th and Peabody”),  names (“Aim your camera at Zach’s left foot”).

They can be broad (“Pick a direction and walk a while”) or specific (“Point your camera north at 15 minutes after the hour.”)

Your instructions should include directives about where the photographer should stand, perhaps when (“Wait for the traffic to clear”), but certainly should also direct the composition, the frame. Consider that you are still framing a subject even though you won’t be shooting the picture yourself, and give enough instructions to ensure clarity of purpose.

The actor in your script should have no confusion or questions. Your script should produce something like a reliable result, though also allowing for some variety or even accident.

Your end goal should be to create a script that generates an interesting meaningful image no matter who shoots it. Possibly a particular function might even be implied by your script/algorithm.

(We’ll approach this assignment a second time next week using only the computer, and not the camera.)


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