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The Camera as Actor edited by Amy Cox Hall

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Is from: Southold, US
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Sun 11-Apr-21 09:57 AM
The Camera as Actor: The Camera as Embodiment of Technology edited by Amy Cox Hall.

The author says, "This volume hopes to further our understanding of how, and in what ways, imaging technology shapes us, our lives, and the representations out of which we make knowledge, base our judgments and ultimately act." That sounds like a useful goal for both photographers and those interested in the social sciences. Unfortunately, at least for me, the book never satisfied the goal.

The book consists of a lengthy introduction, which is a road map to the history of photography and, assuming such a thing exists, the philosophy of photography. The first essay is entitled "The camera as a meeting place for decision making" and purports to identify the uses made of cameras. The second is "Media archaeology of tiny viewfinderless cameras as technologies of action". Viewfinderless cameras range from the original Brownie which had a V shaped slot cut into the top to select a subject to today's GoPro cameras, which are often attached to the body or an object so that pictures are taken without looking through the view finder.

The second part of the book discusses the role of itinerant family portrait photographers in Turkey, and their role in implementing (or not) Ataturk's efforts in bringing the country into the modern era. The next article talks about the use of analogue toy cameras and polaroids by folks who reject the organization required for digital photography.

Part three first talks about the use of cameras by individuals with autism spectrum condition. The final article talks about how police body cameras are failing in their use as a tool of law enforcement.

I've had to use this lengthy summary because I saw no consistent thread between these articles. In fact, I wondered how and why they came to be assembled in this book.

I found one article at least stimulating. I have a friend who photographs regularly with a Holga "toy" camera. The author suggests that users of these devices reject planning in favor of spontaneity, and perhaps, reject technology. I must admit I never understood my friend's devotion to his Holga, but perhaps the author of the article was correct.

The author of the article about body cameras discusses them as an extension of technology to enable better policing, noting that they have not been successful. I found it disingenuous not to recognize that many members of the public see body cameras as a tool for curbing police malpractice.

The article on individuals with autism spectrum condition, who also photographed, used a sample size of four young men aged from 18 to 25. This is sample is totally inadequate to draw useful conclusions.

Here, just for fun, is a typical sentence in one of the articles:
"The oscillation of proximity and distance between the intra-camera “eye” (the implied lens of the transducer) and the eye of the human subject who seeks the experience of immersive looking is not so different from the situation of the 360-degree pan that establishes the human subject at the center point of the field of the gaze, except that in the latter case the eye is mirrored at the locus of the field."

All of the above is just a small sample of my notes on this book.

I also read this book using the publisher's Vital Source Bookshelf app. There is no explanation of how the app works for navigation, and navigation keys seem to change their function at random.

For a practicing photographer there is little of use in this book. I can't imagine who else would be interested.