In Paris there exists an unconventional sculpture studio created by François Willème in the 1860s. It’s a circular room fitted with 24 cameras wherein Willème would place a subject in the centre and snap all 24 shutters simultaneously and then mapped each view on clay. The final image was no single shot, but a combined image of 24 perspectives. It’s a process which academics and art enthusiasts would refer to as a “triangulation of perspectives.”
Sometimes I wonder whether Willème and the people he inspired (including the famous artist Degas (see his sketches of the Little Dancer)) were either overly concerned with telling every aspect of the truth of beauty or if they were just indecisive about how to start. Maybe they were just looking for inspiration, seeking that corner that stood out so much more than another.
Regardless, what strikes me the most about this room and all its symbolism is this: paradoxically, in seeing the 24 different angles, you can finally see the subject as it is. Looking at a subject gives you an idea of what to draw, or write, or photograph. Seeing it, really truly seeing the intricate details of any subject, requires compounding the many competing perspectives.
I realise this message of “looking at every angle” has been said too many time, so many in fact that its become a meaningless mantra. Every writer knows that there are a million ways to tell a story right. Every writer also knows that there will always be someone who will disagree. It’s why we find criticism so difficult to take – it’s hard to accept that we’ve missed something when in our minds we “saw” everything.
However, individually and collectively, we can’t “see” properly for one very prominent reason. The first is that, as rational social creatures, we choose to see what will benefit us in society. Our perspectives are defined by our nationalities, our heritage, our education, our opinions. Most of all our camera capture that which we like (physically represented by the great creation that is Facebook) and ignore what we hate. Because of this, not only can we not ‘see” every angle, but we won’t. Most importantly, because of this we’ll not even try.
It’s a major problem because it’s the source of the world’s problems. Politicians fail because they switch off certain cameras to project their personal agendas and viewpoints. Parents and children disagree because they are looking through different cameras. Historians and economists each carry one single camera. We should all learn from Willème – he put the concept into practice. In the best of circumstances, a story should be told from every angle, to create more clarity, greater truth and an honest representation of reality.
With that said, I should point out that you are not reading another post by the brilliant author and creator of this blog. The Artist, like Willème, has added another camera to his studio by permitting me to contribute to the blog. I’m an aspiring journalist, a pedantic observer and another re-inker of life. Till next time….