Technology and perspective

One of my Christmas presents was this wonderful book by David Hockney and Martin Gaysford, A HIstory of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen. It’s about changes over the millennia in the way artists have represented a four dimensional world in a two-dimensional snapshot. The book ranges from cave paintings to photography and film, and although mainly about western art it does discuss eastern art too, in the context of the distinctiveness of perspective in the western tradition.

Then I moved on to another present, Teju Cole’s collection of essays, Known and Strange Things, which has a section about photography and perspective, and about the way technology is changing photographic art. And then, with the news of John Berger’s death, I started watching his TV series Ways of Seeing (and there’s an accompanying book). Early in the first programme, he emphasises this point: “Perspective centres everything on the eye of the beholder.” Interesting to look back at the series and see its debt to Walter Benjamin.

A while ago David Hockney wrote a really interesting FT article about technology and perspective (in its widest sense). I even wrote to him asking him to write a little book extending the idea but got a polite reply saying he was to busy. But I think it’s really intriguing.

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