My first paper for my ENG102 class, a short summary of the second half of the first chapter in our textbook. I ended up with a 3.8/4.0, and a comment that I have “a wonderful, lucid prose style.” I can cope with that.
The latter half of “Image and Reality,” the first chapter of Film, Form and Culture, Robert Kolker deals primarily with the concept of ‘reality’ as represented in artwork, from the earliest cave paintings to modern films, and focuses primarily on photography. In each case, and especially in photography, the paradox lies in viewers perceiving an objective ‘reality’ when in fact, the final image has been manipulated by the artist to produce a specific, intended viewpoint.
Kolker describes early cave paintings as calling upon an “elemental magic,” the belief that, “if you own a part of or representation of a thing, you have power over that thing” (17). Early paintings expressed a desire to capture and control the world, to humanize it.
As painting styles and techniques improved, the urge grew from merely capturing an impression of reality to attempting to represent the real world as accurately as possible. Kolker uses the development of perspective techniques that “allowed the viewer a sense of ownership” by subtly including the viewer in the image to stress that “the ideological thrust of painting was to be as ‘true’ to the natural world as possible” (17, 18).
The development of photography allowed for what appeared to be near-perfect renditions of reality. Kolker paraphrases film theorist André Bazin in claiming that “photography is the climax of [the] desire” to “capture and maintain the reality of the world” due to the apparent objectivity of the camera (19). However, that implied objectivity is invisibly compromised by the photographer, whose choices of composition, lighting and equipment affect the final image as much as they would in any painting. As real as a photograph appears, Kolker feels that we should not forget that, “an image is not the thing itself but a thing in itself…interpreting something else” (20).
Kolker then looks at how the photograph, and manipulation of the image, quickly became a tool in journalism and advertising. “Manipulation of the image became extreme,” he says, as “the photograph became a tool for representing specific commercial and political points of view…” (21). The perceived ‘reality’ of the photograph was used to convince, whether or not the photograph presented an accurate ‘reality.’
Lastly, Kolker presents his main argument, “that reality is always a mutually agreed upon social construct….” (22). People’s experiences as they grow and interact with others combine to form a commonly accepted view of ‘reality.’ In paintings and photography, people attempt to capture and interpret the world around them. Kolker again borrows from Bazin when he says that this is their desire “to give significant expression to the world” (23). However perfectly a photograph may seem to fulfill that desire, though, the unseen hand of the artist should not be dismissed.