Thursday, July 12, 2012

In the Presence of a Giant

          The experience of mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral began even before entering the building. Arriving at not only a historic sight, but an immense architectural masterpiece impacts your senses especially sight. As John Berger describes in Ways of Seeing “seeing comes before words” the feeling that overcomes you when in the presence of such a beautifully constructed cathedral is indescribable.

            Berger states that the painting or picture reflects the artist feeling, as in Vanity by Memling on pg 51; a painting of a naked woman holding a mirror. This is meant to display the woman’s vanity. However it is hypocritical because it is the painter who placed both the naked woman and the mirror as he wished to see her, while morally condemning her as vain. When at St. Paul’s Cathedral my sense of inferiority and awe next to the grandiose building is seen through the following image, where instead of standing further back to take the picture I have taken it looking up at the cathedral putting me in a position of lowliness.

The sight of the building’s exterior and feelings it evoked in my subconscious produced the reflection in these images without having assigned any words to what I felt in the moment. Now analyzing them, while letting myself be influenced by Berger, my experience supports the claim he makes that; reproductions distort the actual model or thing being captured. My angle of the front of St. Paul’s makes the cathedral look gigantic and overpowering. I have distorted the reality of how big the cathedral is because of my perspective.

Once inside the cathedral taking my seat Berger’s theory that we perceive and see in a circular motion took effect. Things that catch our eye are those that please the eye and have various elements not caught at a first glance. The architectural design and decorative paintings on the walls were captivating throughout the service. I could more accurately describe what I was seeing behind, above and around the altar than the actual service, not because of distraction, but because of the elements that kept my sight engaged and moving. This seeing in a circular motion, Berger explains, is what creates the relation between the things we see and ourselves, putting us into a perspective of where we stand. Where I stood in that cathedral I felt almost invisible by how much music and vibrant art and architecture was around me, as if I was a mere spectator not belonging among such a rarely seen spectacle.
          Lastly Berger also states that an image has been “detached from the place and time from which it first made its appearance and preserved.”(9) These images, of which I am the artist, have been detached from the actual St. Paul’s Cathedral to emulate my perspective and preserved in my photographs. They are not a part of the actual cathedral and will remain the same, preserved in the form I have given them. Berger’s theories have given me a perspective from which to analyze my way of seeing to catch the elements I didn’t even know were there when I took the photographs.

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