“Tilt shift photography is an aesthetic response to the web…”

[Update: For an updated, more academic take, see the comments.]

Random theory. And I mean really random.

I stumbled across some tilt-shift photography recently, first here at Fuck Yeah Toronto (keep posting, dammit!), and then here at Today and Tomorrow.

The ostensible point of tilt-shift is to make something huge look miniature, right? To take a scene that involves possibly thousands of people and more space than you could touch in a week and to make it look small.

The web is an overwhelming, impossibly large, ever-changing repository of information. It, like the cosmos, is the impossibly huge, the impossible to comprehend.

Tilt-shift is its aesthetic response. It takes the overwhelming, the massive and renders it to seem acceptable. We no longer paint enormous, grand, sublime paintings. We take photographs that make us believe that, just for a second, we can, to invoke a cliche, ‘hold the world in our hand’.

It’s the inverse-sublime. And if the Enlightenment needed the sublime – if Burke and Kant had to ressurrect the idea to reposition the individual and consciousness in relation to the world – then we have to use tilt-shift to make the world seem small again.

But like I said. Random. And clearly I don’t mean this literally. I could just be talking out of my ass. Thoughts, though?

4 thoughts on ““Tilt shift photography is an aesthetic response to the web…”

  1. If you’re interested in pursuing this, there’s a great book by Susan Stewart called On Longing – great chapters on the sublime and miniaturization.

  2. Thanks. It was a just a random thought – nothing I’m going to follow up really. I think if you push the idea, then a lot of (realist) aesthetic representation is an attempt to capture something that ultimately can’t be captured. It’s the framing of it that I think is neat – the self-conscious attempt to take the large and make it small. It seems different than Englightenment approaches to the sublime. If that was about asserting the capacity or infinity of consciousness/the subject to ‘overcome’ magnitude, then this is interestingly different.

    I think I’m just generally interested in how we aesthetically respond to ‘so much’. It’s like when you wander through the library and realise just how much stuff is out there – it’s simultaneously inspiring and crushing. The web feels like that exponentially magnified.

    I wonder if there are other aesthetic responses to this phenomenon (if we do agree that it is one). Microfiction perhaps?

  3. No, I was wrong. It’s the not the inverse sublime. It’s the aestheticisation of the sublime. It’s the same move – or at least an analagous one. Take magnitude and frame it aesthetically in order to both contain and revel (safely) in its threat.

    Ah well. Still interesting though.

  4. You should pick up this book anyways. It’s one of the smartest, most critical, yet most lyrical and tactile academic books I’ve ever read. I wish I could write like Susan Stewart.

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