Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Handphone Cameras, Cartier-Bresson, the Library and Isaiah

Real artists shoot handphone cameras. They are all you'll ever need: portable, no additional accessories. Better chances of getting the picture before the moment passes.

Or they shoot disposable cameras, like the one reviewed here:

Digital compact photography is a lie. Magic words like bokeh, burst rate, megapixels and noise control are myths. Besides, why pay so much for digital compacts when handphone cameras can do just as well, and when film (even in disposable cameras) is far superior?

A disposable waterproof film camera was used to produce the last image in this entry, and its colour dynamic range is far better than anything a compact would have produced. It even has more character and definition than the pictures I took with my SLR that day.

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Behind Saint-Lazare station, Paris, France, 1932. By Henri Cartier-Bresson. A primitive black-and-white image with about as much resolution as today's better handphone cameras can produce.

He said,

For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to "give a meaning" to the world, one has to feel involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.

It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis.

Perhaps that is why I find photography therapeutic: it helps me align my head with my heart, albeit via the feeble device of my eyes.

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I have a love-hate relationship with the UM Library, and I think this is true for most students.

The selection of books can often be disappointing. Many of them are outdated and there are frequently insufficient copies of important reference books; of course, I speak from the point-of-view of a second-year Ecology student. Perhaps students in other courses find the Library more well-stocked.

My prejudices were brought to light when I set about borrowing books for Insect Biology. The recommended text is Entomology by Romosor and Stoffolano, but there are only about two copies in the library. However, I discovered there were tons of a certain volume by an A.D. Imms.

Later I discovered it is a legendary text on Entomology. One writer suggested that 'every student of Entomology is forever indebted to Imms'.

The more I think about it, the more I doubt the validity of the 'outdated' argument. I, of all people, have something against old editions of books, and so this has been a difficult prejudice to overcome. I'm the sort of person who would rather own a brand-new copy of some classic work, than read a hand-me-down or early edition located in a library.

Yet in these recent weeks and months, I have begun to see that borrowing old books not only reduces one's expenditure on new books, but also connects one with the past in some sense. This is simply because these are the very books our professors, and their professors, read.

I do not think the generations of the past were in any way disadvantaged. One might argue that in those days, the books now outdated were in fact current and cutting-edge then. Yes, to a certain extent. But we consider Darwin's illustrations, which seem more vivid than even a good number of today's photographs. We consider the works of Shakespeare and Donne and Dante, who all wrote without dictionaries and thesauri.

T.S. Eliot wrote, in his essay 'Tradition and the Individual Talent';

[T]he historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his contemporaneity.

We need up-to-date texts, to be sure, and the Library would do well to stock more of these. But at the same time, I believe the link to the past and the heritage of information that aided the birth of our predecessors should not be lost.

And students would be wise to explore some of these, and remember that science is, to a great extent, less about the amounts of information collected or facts determined or laws created, and more about the methods and spirit of inquiry which have remained largely unchanged by time.

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(Photo either by Tee Ming or Alissa.)

It will be a sign and witness to the LORD Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the LORD because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them. So the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the LORD. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the LORD and keep them. The LORD will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the LORD, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.

--Isaiah 19:20-22 (NIV)

The NIV Study Bible suggests that this universal vision is only possible in light of Isaiah 11:1-10. I think it is also possible in light of the consecration of Isaiah:

"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

--Isaiah 6:5-7 (NIV)

To know that revival transcends the borders we place for it. To know that revival begins with the individual.

In the words of the Petra song 'Send Revival', written by Matt Redman;

Send revival, start with me
For I am one of unclean lips
And my eyes have seen the King
Your glory I have glimpsed
Send revival, start with me.

* * * * *

My finals begin in less than eight hours.

* * * * *

Correction, 12.02 p.m. 6 Nov '08:

The comment on Imms by C. P. Friedlander goes like this, "Every entomologist is conscious of the debt he owes to that mine of information, A. D. Imms' textbook of entomology."

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