I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.
Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin
We all are cameras now. In fact, we are all cyborgs now. The electric eyes, the lenses that record digital images we carry with us damn near everywhere, are just one more Borg accoutrement with which we signal our oneness with the Collective, the hivemind. That the machines we are so attached to are not yet surgically grafted to our bodies and that we are not yet required to carry them on our bodies at all times only slightly obscures our dependence on our prostheses to live what passes for life in the digital age.
But I love being a camera. Since I got my first digital camera a decade or more ago, I’ve taken tens of thousands of photos. Liberated from the cost of film and developing prints, I click my iPhone for camera the way a four-pack-a-day smoker (Are there any left?) taps out a cigarette. I’ve salted one hard drive after another with .jpgs and no one but me has seen most of them. I simply enjoy looking at them, and playing with them in a photo-editor. I spend hours on my laptop doing this. As with my poetry and art most of the pleasure for me is in the doing of it; the composition, the editing, the tweaking. Sharing with others is way down there.
Take it from a genuinely asocial hermit; the best thing about the digital panopticon is that you never have to share, even when you’re sharing (and you’re always sharing). In this ether, solitudes, not people, collide–a extension of Gutenberg, and Kodak, by other means. Vpeeps think they use “social media” to share, communicate, even to commune. Loners-by-trade understand the first and best use of “social media” is to erect the virtual columns from which each of us may enact our solitary passion play to a virtual congregation as a virtual Stylites. But I disgress. Let us cathect.
What I’m talking to myself and letting you listen about is digiphotographilia, this obsessive virtual fondling of images. Instead of surfing online porn I look at pictures of leaves I take myself.
I mostly take pictures of things, not people. I document graffiti of interest wherever I find it;
also fossils; junk in abandoned buildings; buildings; architectural detail on buildings; manhole covers… I also stalk birds, butterflies, armadillos, raccoons, cicadas, and spiders. Bridges, and the rivers that flow under them.
Yes, I enjoy being a camera, and now we, the etheric we, the hash of ghosts, the mechanical turks of the virtual panopticon, are all eye to cyborg eye–A crowd of eyes seeking self, seeking a way out of self. In contraposition to the Isherwood quote, William Gass wrote, in On Being Blue:
The camera understands its enemy, and shuts its eye.
Every blink of the camera eye is a Judas kiss, a cold click by which a kingdom of beholding is betrayed. Captured.
The digital eye, the eye that in its multitudes never sleeps, the eye of Little Sister and Big Brother, is also the serpent eye of ouroboros. It is not God the Father’s house but the ouroboric eye which has many mansions.