Unreal Nature

March 21, 2020

What Ought to Be Seen

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:21 am

… one frequently encounters an author’s instructions to viewers on how, for example, to properly shift the viewing angles so as to see what ought to be seen.

This is from Observing By Hand: Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century by Omar W. Nasim (2013):

… The pictorial reproductions of the nebulae showed up in many places, including the burgeoning popular science industry and even in works of art. … These strange images were especially prone to activate imagination, speculation, and association in ways that were not always strictly in keeping with scientific concerns — making the images all the more “fragile” as they were used by multiple “constituencies” like religion, politics, ideology, and metaphysics. The portraits of the nebulae, in fact, captured many sensibilities, intellectual interests, and aesthetic factors common to much of the century, thus making them perfect instruments for examining a “period eye.”

… The pictures showed what any pertinent scientific hypothesis would have to explain. But how something was displayed was not always a simple matter, for the way a portrait was shown determined what was seen. Intellectual “conceptions” or “criteria” were necessary to see the pictures with expert eyes and correctly make out what was represented.

[line break added] But apart from the widespread and conscious use of conceptions in correctly and expertly looking at the pictorial representations of the nebulae, there was another significant factor in their display: the many ways the images were manipulated, printed, oriented, and placed in the text, figured alone or with other objects in a series. Often the way something was displayed amounted to an explicit choice made by an author using the portraits for particular purposes. Consequently, one frequently encounters an author’s instructions to viewers on how, for example, to properly shift the viewing angles so as to see what ought to be seen.

My most recent previous post from Nasim’s book is here.

-Julie

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