lecture 2: the camera eye

– introduction: the camera eye metaphor


Retinal Photograph, drawn by Willy Kühne, 1878
“He had exposed the eye of a living rabbit to a barred window, killed the rabbit, removed the retina and fixed it in alun”

– the shadow as the origin of painting, the myth of Butades

Eduard Daege, “Die Erfindung der Malerei”, 1832, Nationalgalerie, Berlin.

– Plato’s allegory of the cave

Jan Saenredam, 1604

– Optics in antiquity

a renaissance manuscript of Euclid’s Optics

– Optical theories by Alhazen and Bacon

the geometrically idealized anatomy of the eye by Alhazen

– Kepler and the retinal image

the retinal image as visualized by Cigoli (1613, left) and Descartes (1637, right).

– the development of perspective in painting until Desargues

van Eyck (1434, left), Masaccio (1427, right)

from the ‘Due Regole’ by Vignola/Danti (1583)

– the telescope and the microscope

galilei.jpg leewenhoek.jpg
sunspots by Galilei (1612), sperm by Leeuwenhoek (ca. 1673).

– perspective machines and the photocamera

perspective grid by Dubreuil (1642).

portable camera obscura by Atkinson (1855).

– perspective wars, perspective and truth

perspective box by Pieter Janssens Elinga (1660-1680).

– the camera eye of Dziga Vertov

still from ‘Man with the Movie Camera’ (1929).

further reading:

  • David C. Lindberg, “Theories of Vision from Al-Kindi to Kepler”, University of Chicago Press, 1976.
  • Martin Kemp, “The Science of Art, Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat”, ,Yale University Press, 1990.

even further reading:

  • George Wald, “Eye and camera”, in “Scientific American”, 183 (1950), pp. 32–41.
  • Victor I. Stoichita, “A Short History of the Shadow”, Reaktion Books, London, 1997.
  • Philippe Hamou, “La Mutation Du Visible, Essai Sur La Portée Epistémologique Des Instruments d’Optique au XVIIe Siècle, Volume 1 et 2”, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, Villeneuve d’Asq, 1999-2001.
  • Laurent Mannoni, “Le Grand Art de la Lumière et de l’Ombre”, Nathan, Paris, 1995.
  • Annette Michelson (ed.), “Kino-Eye, the Writings of Dziga Vertov”, University of California Press, 1984.
  • blog item on Kepler and the camera eye

Joost Rekveld