Response: Exploring the reality of zoomed photos as an object for critique and interpretation

In response to “Zooming and its Discontents” by Melissa Daly-Buajitti.

In Daly-Buajitti’s exploration of the artificial zooming technique, there is generous attention paid to the reality of taking extremely zoomed-in digital photos, often of strangers, often in an unusual mix of voyuerism and sousveillance. She explores the ‘personal’ reality of zooming in and stranger-capture, touching briefly on the aesthetic nature of zooming, something that nearly brings the normcore trend to photography as a practice and a movement that extends past clothing. However, it is worth noting other elements of zoomed photos that make them remarkable.

Daly-Buajitti touches on the idea of ‘getting a closer look’ by zooming. I want to elaborate here and suggest that zooming in could really be regarded as restraining a composition so dramatically that there’s nothing else to look at. A wide shot with lots of competing ‘interest points’ leaves too much leeway for the end viewer to interpret and draw conclusions. By zooming, you are exerting that much more artistic power. People say that art, when shown, no longer belongs to the artist. One could suggest that zooming leaves the artist in better control of the end peice than any other artistic technique, other than standing next to the work and explaining the ‘important part’ to every person who passes. If anything, there is a nice sense of practicality in a zoomed-in photo. It’s almost inherently post-modern and the end viewer has nothing left to do except take a look since the subject, the focus, the point of it has been decided by the artist and executed by the zoom. This doesn’t mean zoomed photos are free from interpretation or criticism. Rather than a dependancy on interpretation, zoomed in photos are the most personal manifestation of photography for the artist, as it has a specificity that is tied to the current world. What made the photographer take this? Why is it interesting? The element of rarity and ‘chance’ is palpable.

Of course, the most alienating (or delightful thing) about zooming is the lack of context. Perhaps its an attempt to extend the idea of anonimity and zooming’s ‘irreplecable’ quality. In a big way, zooming is a return to photography’s roots: normal people doing normal things in everyday life. But what’s “normal” when the ‘normal’ in a zoomed photo’s reality could be literally anything? The world a zoomed photo creates is limitless. The main subject, singled out and put in the spotlight, is the carrier for the ‘normal’. Inevitably, we assign logic quickly, and apply our sense of normalcy to a zoomed in photo, leaving that person or object to be praised or a target for redicule. The lightest form of interpretation can come at this time: someone must decide the true intention of a zoomed photo.

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