(Note: Author MICHAEL PERKINS‘ latest collection of images, FIAT LUX, is now available from NormalEye Press.)
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PHOTOGRAPHY, AS AN ART, is part craft and part instinct. The purely technical rudiments for capturing an image within a camera can be learned in a fairly short span of time. That’s the how of it all. The trickier part, by far, is the why of it, that intricate web of motives, guesses and dreams that can prove the work of a lifetime. Amazing advances in technology have greatly enriched the experience of creating images, since cameras are so reliable and easy to operate. That’s a remarkable luxury, since the photographer can now concentrate less on whether a picture will be generated and more on what kind of picture it should be.
However, the design of many devices seems to center on taking troublesome decisions out of the hands of photographers, in the interest of producing more images with fewer “faults”. Instead of making the individual a better photographer, the designers emphasize making the camera good enough to make the process foolproof, so that we always go home with a picture. Ironically, however, it is only in prying our fingers off the auto settings and factory defaults that we steer the process back toward direct experience and vision. Taking a term from prime or so-called “normal” lenses, which visualize most like the human eye, I call this “normalizing”, a process by which our eyes reboot their settings, re-connecting us to the shooters we once were. Putting the tools of this magnificent age at the service of our instincts (rather than the opposite), we make the journey back from merely taking pictures to making images.
To that end, THE NORMAL EYE is not merely a clinical workshop, as there are legions who cover the purely technical aspects of the medium far better than I. It strives, instead, to be a passionate discussion amongst we “perpetual amateurs” in which we take our art back into our own hands, opting for adventure, even disappointment, in search of the miraculous. This platform, then, is a celebration of photography as a deliberate and ongoing act of art, perhaps the most democratic arena for artistry the world has ever known. It is a chronicle of our lifelong efforts to learn, re-learn, and even re-re-learn just how, and what, to see.
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