Access experience

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I was out on a bike-ride (or cycle-dérive) the other day, and I'd made my way to an area of field and woodland that is currently being developed into what appears to be an industrial estate. The development is in its early stages, and a few new buildings have recently sprung up. They look quite incongruous sitting out there in the middle of nature.

I was looking at two of these buildings; they appear to be office space - both of them are quite large, with two floors and glass sides. They are identical to each other, but only one of them is currently occupied.

I was looking at the empty one, and noticing how you could see straight through it. You've probably seen buildings like this before; office-space in waiting. These buildings have always held a certain attraction for me - their latency invites you to use your imagination, to think about what you would put in there, or do in there. Its nice to imagine wandering around them whilst they're empty, as this is something most of us probably get to do so rarely. For me these spaces definitely have a lot of imaginative potential.

I then noticed a man standing outside the empty building smoking a cigarette, presumably the security guard. I was tempted to ask him if I could have a look around the building, but my rational side got the better of me and I didn't approach him (reasoning; what would I say? Can I have a look around? And what if he asked why? How would I explain my motivations without sounding suspicious and/or strange?).

It struck me later that if I'd have had my camera on me then the situation may have been entirely different. I would most certainly have been less afraid to approach him, knowing that I could have explained my intentions by using the camera; I could have told him that I wanted to take photos for a project on the development; that I was freelance photographer, or a student.

Perhaps in a perfect world we wouldn't need devices like these in order to give us an excuse for exploring and experiencing the world; but, if you are of a timid nature or your rational side has too strong a grip, then such devices can prove really handy.

In this instance the camera would have been a device for gaining access to a place where I had no reason to be, other than simple curiousity. Of course, this is reason enough in itself, but it isn't always easy to explain this to someone, or even to justify it to your (rationalising) self.

There are many other examples of devices that allow subtleties of experience. Let's say you find yourself sitting indoors on a lovely sunny day. You realise that you'd like to be outside, but you have no ostensible reason for going out. Some may take a walk, or go sit in a park. The skateboarder always has a reason for being outside. And a sunny day never presents a problem of imagination. The skateboard, whilst serving its ostensive purpose (it allows the person to skate), also acts as a device allowing the skater to experience being out and about on a lovely day - a device for accessing subtleties of experience.

I'm not suggesting that we all take up skateboarding, but I hope you can understand the idea; the camera and the skateboard, whilst being devices for taking pictures and skating upon, can also act in other ways.

So, note to self: always carry the camera, just in case ...

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4 comments:

  1. A point well made LP...if only the sunny day was upon us, and I had time to go looking for empty buildings...all in time.

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  2. Or maybe I should have formed a committee: the Committee For Exploring Vacant Buildings. Perhaps that would validate my curiosity ...

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  3. In this sense, the act of taking a photo becomes more important than the traditional 'ends' of the activity, because it allows access to certain experience.

    Photography becomes a way of engaging with life.

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  4. Perhaps the necessity for an instrumental reason is endemic of a society that places too much emphasis on instrumentality.

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