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Panorama Flâneur’s Notes

Flâneur’s Notes 

Some times a connoisseur, at times a curious observer, very little escapes the astute vision of cultural critic, writer, Johny ML. Photomail presents a unique column ‘Flaneur’s Notes’ the sentient witness of our times, where he weaves vivid tapestries of his experiences on journeys through the myriad bylanes of literature, culture, art, politics, and life.

Image for illustration purpose only | Source internet | Photographer unknown

Contemporary Photography as Sighting Vying for Citing 

Smartphones have equi-distributed the democratic rights on image making to a great extent, they say. Each person who wields a smartphone reduces his distance between the time and the event of his interest next to zero and freezes it for his personal perusal at leisure. However, a nagging question remains; does the right on a personal camera/smartphone invest a person with the absolute rights on image making? The answer, unfortunately, is a big NO. A smartphone camera, as far as an image as a ‘citation’ is concerned, has very limited authority over the images that it intends to click. The ‘photos and videos’ that a smartphone holder takes could only be called ‘sightings’ or chance images or images controlled by chance and they never gain the right of a visual citation.

Sighting is always accidental and definitely at times eagerly waited for. Examples could be taken from two different types of star gazing; one from astronomy and the other from the film world. Crazy fans of both astronomy and film stars do wait for the sighting of their focus of interest and the knowledge about their appearance is limited and vague. In the former’s case precision spotting is possible now with technological advancements but in the latter case the information of a star’s arrival is pretty vague and it is not even necessary that he/she appears in the expected point of entry. In both the cases there is a long and patient waiting. But among the innumerable images captured by the crazy fans or amateur photographers none qualifies as a ‘citable’ image. The citable images are those clicked and distributed selectively or ‘officially’ by the authorities.

There are photographic events that come up in the cases where no such official visual/s of the event is available. For example, consider an accident captured by a CCTV camera. Depending on the gravity of the case this one particular capture is repeatedly relayed by the television channels and one of the grabs from it makes the next day front page illustration for the coverage of the same accident. Now, regard the case of having many visuals of the same captured from different positions by people, of course by chance, and are distributed widely through social media. Still they do not make the ‘official’ image of the event. The official image is the one that gets the official media space. That means an image in our times of liberal smartphone photography creates counter images of the same, vying for media space or discursive attention. Rendering the images of a same event into official and oppositional creates multiple truths about the same event relegating the event itself into a non-event or a truth that has multiple points which discredit the truth itself.

Smartphone holders world over, perhaps realizing this fact of their role as mere ‘sighters’ than ‘citers’ have more or less turned their attention to themselves and what has come to us as result of this reverse training of the lens is a host of images that expose the interiors of the physical as well as the mental architecture of the human beings. These images create and imitate specially designed events mainly for fun and displaying histrionic prowess of the smartphone holder, collapsing the barriers of culture, bringing in unprecedented, provocative, radical and even blasphemous images of the self and its surroundings. Sighters have become citers of their own circuit; a sort of visual quotation that irrespective of cultures validates the given act and allows into the circulation of a parallel visual culture. While many people still tend to pick up their smartphones at a ‘sighting’ know for a fact that the citational value of their images is next to nil and they also that if they invest their energies in creating their own repertoire of images that would give them visibility as ‘citers’ but with a niche audience, non-academic perhaps that runs into millions!

With millions of viewers and millions of recreations, does a photographic event become historically relevant, transcending its mere/meagre recreational value? Historical values are created when societal values are affected, thrashed, collapsed and remolded through contentious socio-political and economic factors and dynamics. These reverse camera events of former sighters who crave for citational authority may maximum achieve place in the associative visual thinking of the viewer/s who in fact wonder which event spurred the given image/moving image as multiplication and re-production through various of cultural adjustments make the original event lose its very point of origin itself. It becomes a universal mock currency of images.

Panorama  Flâneur’s Notes

PhotoMail presents a panoramic view of the art of photography’s interaction and interrelation with other art mediums such as literature, architecture, and other visual media. Flâneur’s Notes is a column written by Johny ML and published on 4th January 2021. Read other parts of Flâneur’s Notes here. Published images and texts are subject to the copyright of the author and/or PhotoMail. 

Johny ML is a writer, translator, art historian, art critic, art curator, editor of art magazines, poet and a prolific blogger. He has three post graduate degrees in Creative Curating, Art History and Criticism, and English Language and Literature. His writings related to arts, culture and politics have been published in several print magazines like Creative Mind, Art Illustrated, newspapers and weeklies in English and in Malayalam. He also founded and edited many popular online art journals. He has been an editor of the Art and Deal magazine also has guest edited Art Etc. He contributes to Art India Magazine, Creative Minds, Art Journal and many other exclusive art magazines. Currently he writes in Stance Magazine and naradanews.com. He is one of the pioneering curators in India. He has authored eight independent books so far and has contributed to various volumes, and translated thirteen books so far. Johny ML lives and works in Trivandrum, Kerala.