Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A River in Egypt

I discover, sometimes by happy accident, a number of delightful qualities about my small-but-versatile camera but one thing about it cannot be denied: It is point-and-shoot. By the mere setting of a dial and carefully learned coordination when depressing the shutter release, I can enlist a sophisticated and helpful exposure meter, but nevertheless, the Lumix FX-30, its Leica lens notwithstanding, is point-and-shoot.

When taking a photo I am often reminded of other cameras which required a more active participation from me in securing the sharpness of focus I wished. Thus did the Mamiya and the Petax and the Rollei and the Konica enlist my awareness of the need for focus, and thus the connective tissues in my consciousness relating photography with writing and, in another context, the connective tissues between acting (as an adjunct of focusing on what a character wants) with getting words exposed on the page with some focus.

Which brings me to the balance between what is said and what is actually meant. You know, subtext.

Oh, for a sophisticated device such as the Intelligent ISO on my Lumix to adjust for proper focus and exposure between what is said and what is meant. But neither I, the metaphorical we, or the us-as-a-species am/are wired for that performance; we are in effect point-and-shoot.

Off we go then, tourists in the land of imagination, setting forth stories in which the characters say one thing and mean another. Thus have we invented the adjunct of irony, in which we say something, intending it as literal, only to discover that someone has construed it to mean its exact opposite or something far enough awry as to cause the blur of being misunderstood.

To add delicious complications to the calculus, we often do not require another person to add to the moral high ground of having been unjustly misunderstood. We may tell ourselves one thing and, tee hee, intend it as a red herring. To extend the photographic metaphor, we may put a filter over the lens to change the quality of incoming reality, making us the used car salesman, the tire-kicking customer, and the car, all at once.

O Wad some giftie gie us, Robert Burns sang, to see ourselves as others see us...

But we are point-and-shoot.

The simple solution is to see dialog as the meeting point between what is said and what is meant, neither English nor conversation nor transcript but rather a language unto itself wherein such innocent expressions as So, what were you thinking for dinner? actually means, What do you mean, dinner isn't ready yet? Don't you realize there's a game on TV? And "I have no idea what you're talking about." means "Oh, no; not that again."

The good news is that this wiring makes us well-constructed to recognize and relate stories.

The bad news is that if its presence within ourselves is not recognized, the condition is called denial, which of itself is the title of this blog.


R.L. Bourges said...

one of the useful things about the point-and-shoot is how it reveals things one doesn't always see in a staged photo shoot. things that may then be used to make better pictures, or, eventually, better photo shoots. best.

Pod said...

a wonderful observation.
kind of what i was getting at here (re mr burns)