Source unknown – Title Unknown (2009) 

Any halfway decent Philosophy 101 course is going to touch on the notion of an ontological argument.

The premise goes like this: God must exist because a God is perfect and that which exists is more perfect than that which does not exist.

I feel as if a lot of modern images suffer from an ontological raison d’etre–namely, the image you capture is better than the image you don’t because the former exists and the latter does not.

All sorts of justifications are employed to shore up this rationale: if I don’t take a photo I won’t remember or it seemed to suggest something that would make a pretty picture.

I call bullshit on both. On the one hand the notion that folks need to Instagram every prettily plated meal and a trendy eatery cheapens the notion of persistence of memory. I’m sure it was good and all but are the huevos rancheros you had a brunch really something you want to remember ten years from now? (It’s like they teach you early on in film making–there’s no need to shoot coverage of a scene with closeup inserts that show the protagonists movements. He grabs something off the counter and picks up something else on vanity in the vestibule. It’s unnecessary to show a close-up of his wallet and his keys, respectively; unless either figure prominently later in the plot.*)

But the second impetus–it seemed like it would make a pretty picture–is, at least, more fundamentally honest in that it assumes that someone else seeing the image will through seeing it gain something.

The proliferation of ready-at-hand imaging devices has not materially improved image making. This is due to the fact that the vast majority of the impetus to create images is grounded in the capitalist act of conspicuous consumption. It’s not enough that I eat and remember what I ate, it’s necessary to show that one is eating here there or having this or that unmediated experience.

It gets even worse with porn. Consumers of erotic content are spoon fed a stylized and highly unrealistic version of sexuality. What I always find so completely bonkers about that is that–by and large–when folks set out to produce DIY porn, instead of asking themselves how do I convey what my experience of sex is like (or perhaps better: inquiring as to why they have the urge to produce such content and then exploring how to place what they want to show in line with what they create), porn provides an easily replicable template for making you the porn star or starlet of your own triple X scene.)

The above is–to my eye–quite different. It’s clear that the audience is seeing something pornographic in nature but the focus is on the expression of an intense, in-the-moment experience of physical pleasure. Yeah, it’s goes way too dark in areas and the shadow cast by the tripod in the upper left corner is detrimental to the immersive effect the image seems to be seeking; but, the way she’s looking back over her shoulder isn’t something that could be easily staged.

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