HandMade Photographic Images

The Human Being as a Camera Obscura

by József Ádám

Executive Summary

I have made use of the most minimal appliances to complete my photos.

The performers of “oral and material culture” Flusseri are the mouth and the hands. These active objects prepare the long term fixation of attained information for our descendants.

By opening and closing the mouth, we increase or reduce the amount of light going into to the mouth cavity.In line with this, there are two cases in which we may speak about camera obscura pictures: there is a small aperture in the mouth by opening it, or by closing it.

The method of my image-making eliminates the apparatus, together with its program (a machine works like a person). If we turn this thought around, it means that I am an apparatus (a person works like a machine).

Pictures like this, can appear in anyone’s body at the time of speaking, breathing, eating and so on. It appears not only in the mouth and palm, but in the pores of skin for example.

These processes do not solve any of the problems of photography. My aim was not usefulness but the formulation and forwarding of a simplified language of photography having a unique perspective without using any camera.

Majority of the photographers mechanically fix the “outer surface” of the outside world as an impartial subject.

The photoralic

In order to obtain the expression photoralic I contracted the words “photo” and “oral”.

photo- originally Greek as a preposition it defines a relationship with light, light -

oral- Latin: I. Grammar: the voice generated in the mouth cavity, II. 1. Biology: lying in the mouth cavity, belonging to the mouth cavity, 2. verbal 3. Medicine: through/via the mouth

negative photoralic

In 1993 I made the first exposure on negative film in the following way:

In a dark room I put the negative film into my mouth and keep it with my teeth in order to have it stable.

I cover my mouth with a card board. The centre of the card board is pierced by a pin. The source of light is turned on. By pulling the pin out exposition takes place through the hole established. After the time required for the exposure conditions elapsed the light source is turned off. Developing, fixation, enlargement.

The so generated exposure is full of details and delicate nuances similarly to an exposure made by a camera obscura box.

Thus, the fact has been proved that the images appear within ourselves in a natural way, e.g. during speaking, breathing, eating, etc.

Speech is similar to a motion picture projected on the screen: it is the flashing-up of slides with short intermittent breaks that may be accompanied by sound effects (simple multimedia).

An analogy could be of George Demeny’s photo chronogramm showing the voice production in a picturesque form during the pronunciation of a sentence – made by his phonoscope.

(In Platon’s cave analogy the cave dwellers had to keep their heads motionless throughout their lives.

In order to prepare a sharp, well contoured picture head and elbow rests were used in the 19th century because of the long exposition times. The bearer is being myself so not only the “theme” but I myself have to be motionless during the exposure time).

I model viewing by inducing an optic-physical and then a photo-chemical procedure in a vertical plane identical to the optic nerve within the human body. Parallelism can be deducted between the operation of a twin lens reflex camera and photoralia. (parallaxes)

The next version is a more simple alternative to the method of photoralic.

I place photo paper into my mouth cavity and then formulate a very small aperture with my lips during the exposure time (pouting my lips).

I call this version the positive photoralic.

To my best knowledge this is the method requiring the “least of apparatus” in order to “consciously” make a perspective image about “reality”.

The positive process may be achieved by using the apparatus of photogram (i.e. light, light sensitive material, components). The so prepared image shows not only the outer space but things available in the “internal space” are also outlined as a print out of the photogram. Such elements of an image can be e.g. the teeth, the edges of lips, etc.

I have to take the raw materials into my hand, I have form them therefore these may easily get “damaged”. These scratches, holes also belong to the process therefore they become parts of the displayed image.

The duration of the exposure depends on the light conditions and the light sensitivity of theraw materials. In normal sunlight an exposure time of about 5 sec is required for close-ups using a 100 ASA negative. Within such a long period of time it is very likely that the image is moved or I am not able to keep the diameter and/or location of the aperture.

The photoralic is the projection of a “sub-objective” space prepared in a subjective space.

Majority of the photographers mechanically fix the “outer surface” of the outside world as an impartial subject.

Even the endoscopic and X-ray images cannot be considered as “internal images” that we could view from inside out of ourselves. Ernst Mach, in his book titled: Analysis of Sensation introduces such a drawing that indicates the “most complete spectacle” from the eyes’ point of view, showing his own body parts (including the nose, face, eye brows, etc.).


Manual: Latin, music: manual keyboard (of an instrument)

Manual: Latin. handbook

Manual: Latin. Made by hand, hand-made

Method of making the exposure:

I clasp my hands together so that I leave a small aperture between my thumbs.

The photo paper is placed between my palms fixed by the middle and ring fingers and forming a cavity so that the light sensitive surface faces the aperture.

During the preparation of photomanugraphic images it is difficult to form a regular aperture since the clasped soft palms get wrinkled in an unforeseeable manner and the irregular aperture is located relatively deeply. The positioning of the negative is less predictable and controllable in case of movements.

The second problem is that I can sense the size of this aperture to a lesser extent than in the case of photoralia therefore I have to see the “aperture”.Even I cannot recognize many pictures afterwards...

The contours of the generated image are determined by the wrinkles of the hand.

The developed pictures are not so full of details as with photoralic.

The negatives of photoralica and photomanugraphy can be differentiated by their sizes and configuration. The image is horizontal in photoralia while it is vertical in photomanugraphy. The sizes are about 4 x 6 cm. The “useful” area is about three-four square centimetres in both cases.

Similar images are generated in other “cavity” body parts as well, such as ears, nose, pores, etc. but even in the folds of the clothes we wear.

I rank the images prepared photomanually between manual works and technically generated images because by using my hands I formulate, shape and generate such a picture that has so far not been formulated using technical apparatus. In this case I consider all artificial structure to be an apparatus, including the simple aperture camera.

Who is in what, what is in whom?

Latent image

What images can we or cannot we see during photography?

Why cannot we see those images we cannot see or why is it not necessary to see them?

From the above point of view the “final image” is an illustration of one of a kind. It illustrates the way the photographer more or less succeeded to pass through the technical steps. Therefore “a perfect photo “ can never be made since the image can reflect light sensation only close to reality not to mention the insufficiency of resolution and illusion making.

It is often read that the optical system of human eye resembles the operation of cameras. Of course, it is not the human eye the operation of which resembles that of the camera but to the contrary the camera is designed to approach the optical solutions experienced with the human eye. However, none of the cameras could ever match or overdo the “level of completeness” of viewing. The intensification of some properties have successfully been achieved but as a whole none of the structures have become more perfect than the human eye.

These processes do not solve any of the problems of photography. My aim was not usefulness but the formulation and forwarding of a simplified language of photography having a unique perspective without using any camera. I am not interested in the illusionist plane of the end result but those simple processes and phases out of which one can set up a “thesis applicable to everyone”.

The character of the generated image is determined by the physical faculty and the behaviour of the subjected person. The camera works mechanically in a predictable manner, however, in this process most phases of objective imaging is feasible.

The programmed light

Among the methods of artificial image generation photography occupies a well established position. It has significantly affected the change of the fundamental aims and manifestations of painting. It used to be an important step towards the appearance of motion pictures. In printing the photographic illustrations helped to renew the methods of documentation. Digital photography ceases probability. Everything is pre-programmed in the apparatus. The possibilities are rather restricted than inspiring the photographer to take new directions. Ever more often we manipulate ready pictures. The characteristic, unique point of view is fading out, the human being “marches out” of photography, becoming rather questionable not only as a maker but also as a creator.

The quantity of light is ever decreased.

The light pulses of a movie projected in a cinema create a light missing situation compared to the light conditions required to look at pictures. The light projected from behind us and reflected from the screen lights up the real space, too (the other watchers and the furniture can be seen, as well).

Even in virtual reality this “shortened, opposing contact” remains, however, the surrounds of the image and all the other space sensations consist of artificial and fictional elements.

Light is portioned to us together with all its reflections. Transmitting objects are ever less illuminated – instead of the film strip and screen in the case of movies – light itself is transferred by itself from the shortest possible distance. The image is projected directly onto the nervous membrane involving ever more dense information with ever more frequent brakes.

The active and passive properties of senses

The senses of viewing, hearing and smelling are passive ones, capable of one-way transmission.

Information is damped in these cavities. Light is absorbed by the eyes, sounds and voices are damped by the ears and smells and odours are swallowed by the nose (a kind of black holes).

The individual senses are capable of analysing one and only one type of all the stimulus affecting us from our surroundings.

The individual experiences may be summarized, they can contribute to each other or one of the sensors – usually the eyes – may take over control even if viewing plays no prime role in that particular sensing procedure.

Sound, voices heard simultaneously get easily blurred together to form a single tone.

On the other hand we can sense many of the visible objects at a time so that all separate from the others.

In certain cases the eyes may become active, too. Recent times, there have been successful experiments to develop systems monitoring the movements and direction changes of the eye balls.

The system handling the movements of the eyes as information – vectors – follows the movements of the eyes, consequently the digital image on the computer monitor is similarly altered (“painting with the eye”). Based on this model the changes – being processed information data – may connect such incompatible fields as viewing and creation, playing a violin by a video image within a processed video image (Steina Vasulka) or perhaps the “touchability” of thoughts in the near future.

According to Richard L. Gregory viewing appeared in a later phase of evolution (after touches, tasting and thermal sensing).

The mouth takes the air, food and drink in and at the same time it “transmits” toward the outside. It formulates thoughts coming from the brain when generating voices, songs and playing instruments. The eyes are also capable of changing events but not in a so many folded manner as speaking and on the other hand in a much more misunderstandable manner.

Certain palpation stimuli are forwarded to the brain and at the same time hands execute and perform the instructions of the brain and thinking is “formulated” by writing.

The performers of “oral and material culture” according Flusseri are the mouth and the hands. These active objects prepare the long term fixation of attained information for our descendants.

The eyes and the ears play a controlling role providing a feed-back and a circulation. However, viewing can be omitted from this control loop in case of a written text (one can write even in the dark) and hearing can be omitted in the case of spoken text (messages can be read from the mouth).