Photography and the metaphysics of presence

Here is an article that makes an interesting connection between photography and the metaphysics of presence.  While the author becoming ‘steaming mad’ over people taking pictures seemed a little much, I think he is on to something concerning the more philosophical point – that photography is technological thinking par excellence, it seeks to master (capture) a moment and space in time, to control it and preserve it.  As such, it involves an unnatural removal of oneself from the basic temporality of  ‘being-in-the-world’.  

As the father of young children who sees too many parents raise their kids through a viewfinder (and I do get annoyed with it), I am glad to now have a more substantial philosophical view to reflect on as I quietly judge them for their foolishness!

Author: Kleiner

Associate Vice Provost and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Utah State University. I teach across the curriculum, but am most interested in continental philosophy, ancient and medieval philosophy as well as Catholic thought, all of which might be summed up as an interest in the ressourcement tradition (returning in order to make progress). I also enjoy spending time thinking about liberal education and its ends.

One thought on “Photography and the metaphysics of presence”

  1. My first reaction to the article was that the author is a little presumptuous in deciding what other people want and feel. His daughter went on a pilgrimage and “on the whole, it seemed to her, everybody else wanted to take photographs.” To him, his fellow parishioners “[seem] to be saying, what would be the point” of this sacrament without photographs, since photographs “turn sacraments that they could no longer experience or understand as such into . . . precious memories.”

    I’d agree that heavy photography isn’t necessary to make an event significant but I don’t know if photography is an attempt to restore significance to events. To accuse photographers of technological thinking, you should know what they’re thinking, and that’s very hard to do.

    It seems to me that if you can enjoy a higher meaning on your pilgrimage, you shouldn’t judge too harshly those who seem to be there just for the pictures. They may seem to love sight and sound above meaning, but maybe they do understand the meaning. Maybe they just hope they can preserve the fleeting meaning.


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