This photo, taken from Google’s “streetview” team cameras captures a time and place that will never be able to be recreated in the exact same way again. The photo highlights an amazing view of a turtle floating above the coral and reef underwater with millions of little creatures and fish in the background. Obviously the aura created by physically being there at that moment and time when the photo was taken is ultimately the greatest and will surpass any display of the moment such as the picture, but that is the point of photography. Photography often portrays unique or spectacular views of a moment for others or the photographer to relive the aura felt in the presence at every future glance of the photo. Walter Benjamin describes this marvelously as “a distance as close as it can be” and a “strange weave of space and time”. Benjamin goes on to point out that photography loses it’s meaning and value as it loses its aura. Aura can be effected by an infinite number of things, but like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. A painting we see may not even catch our eyes, but given the knowledge that the painting was created by a famous artist and was sold for thousands for even millions of dollars undoubtedly changes our perspective on that artworks aura. This also arises the thought of the “fake aura”; since aura is intangible it is often argued. The aura associated with original painting of the Mona Lisa gives it great value and meaning, but a recreation of the same artwork, even if the artwork is nearly identical, holds little to no similar value. This thought is a conflict in the art world, and for those who critisize the value of artwork.
This is a picture of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.This Wall is believed to have been constructed around twenty BC and has been a place that people from all over the world come to pray. Although this wall has been around for over two thousand years, it still continues to be a popular place of worship and tourism. Even though many things have taken place since the wall was first constructed, war, famine, etc. . . this has always been a place that the Israeli people can pray and reflect. It is amazing that as technology and culture continue to grow and are always morphing into something different, there are still some places that can be a window back in time.
In Walter Benjamin’s article “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” he talks about the fact that the technology is stopping us from experiencing these moments in time. (3) It is this statement that I want to focus on. Benjamin says that “even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space.” (3) While this can be true, how can you say that this photo of the Wailing Wall, which has been around for a long time, is lacking time and space? Can we say that something is lacking in time and space, if it is timeless and has never changed? Even though there can be a disconnect between someone and a photo of the Ayers Rock in Australia. I don’t see how a photo of something that has been going on for thousands of years can be lacking in time or space.
A snapshot is a single story of a moment in time and these snapshots can be anything from a stereotypical story about a place, archeological findings from an extinct era, art or film. In “The Work of Art in the Ages” Walter Benjamin makes an interesting statement about human perception:
“During long periods of history, the mode of human sense perception changes with humanity’s entire mode of existence.”
Today this mode of existence can be seen in the snapshots of life on earth that is being captured by Google Maps. Our change in perception has not exactly been for the best, as we have become accustomed to having our desires and the world before us at a single click. I find it interesting that Benjamin makes an accurate observation about this when he states:
“The manner in which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well.”
Today the largest medium is the internet with Google Maps showing millions of captured moments from around the world.
At first the assignment seemed daunting because of the millions of miles of roads out there lastly after some thought I decided to start with my commute to work, even though there was some interesting pictures I decided to travel along the Gorge, Hawaiian beaches and finally to Mt. St. Helens. This moment of time captured the ‘aura’ of destruction still visible from 30 years ago along with the mountain taking a breath shown from the steam rising from the crater.
Audra Mann | @WSUVcollegeMom
As I was I searching on Google Maps, I stumbled upon this image taken in New York. This is a photograph of a sunset over Crystal Lake. This photograph captures the moment of a beautiful evening by the lake as the day comes to a close. Although this is a beautiful sunset, there is no way to fully undergo the aura of this sunset simply by viewing a photograph. One must be there to have the entire experience. Walter Benjamin mentions the aura in his article, and says that the aura is “the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be” (4). The sun setting in the picture looks as though it is just on the other side, when in reality, it is far away. We are under the impression that we can go over to the other side and we will be closer to the sunset. We don’t know the distance. This is an example of the trickery of a photograph. The camera seems to bring the sun closer to us. For all we know, this image could’ve been photoshopped. Benjamin also says: “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be”(3). We know that the photograph was taken at an unheard of Crystal Lake, but where exactly is the lake located? Is it off a road? Or is it at a nearby park? By the sunset, we assume that the time is around 6PM. How are we to know for sure? Any work of art lacks in the element of time.