That means, the camera, a mechanical translation of the eye, has moved on to become a combination of eye and the brain with the artificial intelligence system. Naturally, the scientific point of view of the camera, its power to focus on an individual or an event or its software that can analyse an arresting moment makes it a meta-realistic, meta-social and meta-political apparatus. Nothing but its ability to turn 360 degrees, to focus and capture a single image as well as a number of them by panning, and above all, its inherent sovereignty to survey from the top neglecting all the political, social, and geographical boundaries the human beings traditionally held on, elevates the device to an extra-terrestrial, extra-territorial superpower.
On the cultural terrain, shamelessly voyeuristic we have become; as a wide range of cameras with image transmission capabilities have reached everybody’s hand. Images, that also imperishable ones, are circulating all over the world undermining all cultural, political, and geographic regulations. Coupling it with the surveillance systems used by all power centres, we are completely at the risk of losing all our privacy, including financial, political, commercial, sexual or behavioral ones that we have been keeping with us as social beings. Exposing ourselves to the public (of course, everyone does it back to us) definitely shatters all the values the human beings have cherished according to the cultural patterns imposed on them, or chosen to live. In this transformative phase of our cultural conventions due to the device called the camera, almost all societies might have been going through a very strenuous phase.
However, the camera, as a tool, has always been there in the realm of art; first as a threat, then as an aide and further on, as a medium of art itself! But the camera never treated art as a unique creative entity as it had been conventionally considered. A photograph’s ability for multiple reproductions removed the aura of uniqueness of an art work. But the artists who held on to the idea of art within the fortress of its uniqueness started to sign their photographic prints and created limited editions and tried to mimic the abstract as well as the other styles of art through the lens, and they staged people and objects to have ideal compositions to make pictures. Playing with the tonal gradations, light and darkness, focusing on the materiality and material qualities of the objects, many tried to convert photography into an established concept of art.
Whatever it might be, the traditionally cherished representational photography with its matter-of-factness, the objective truthfulness that detail having Henri-Cartier Bresson like sharp focus that awaits for a decisive moment to make the photographer’s personal view, withstood several styles and times in the history of photography. The idea of a human being behind the camera and the human ethos needed in an image as one observes in the images captured by Dorothea Lange, still continues as the most powerful image production method. With the support of the metanarratives that allow elaborating the discourse on those images, the iconic photograph on the Bhopal tragedy captured by Raghu Rai, the National Geographic image off the Afghan refugee girl Sharbat Gula and the ever haunting image of Qutubdin Ansari, a victim of the Godhra riots, and the paining picture of Aylan Kurd, the dead body on the shore of that Syrian boy, stand for the cruel mindset of our age and so on, speaks volumes as the camera transformed itself as the eye of the human conscience.