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the apparatus and its shadow

In the collection of the ICI there is an Argus Argoflex 75, almost identical to one that I have at home. This was the first twin lens reflex/medium format camera that I used, and my first experience of a waist-level finder. It was a device that, in retrospect, was formative for my engagement with the apparatus. I remember being captivated by the experience of looking through the bright window of the camera, which seemed to combine aspects of camera, projector and screen all in one. This simple vision machine somehow animated the ordinary world that it framed. I felt like the experience of looking through the camera was more magical than any photograph that could be taken with the same camera. Basic as it is, this camera also reflects an aspect of Vilém Flusser’s philosophy of the apparatus, because it alters its operator’s relationship to the world; the photographer must turn their gaze away from the subject, instead looking down into the viewfinder. In adapting to the gaze of the camera, the user becomes a functionary of the apparatus and its program. It is an act of mediation that comes between us and the world, its twin lenses a double-edged sword.

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