Susannah Hays

Embodied Camera

   In the photograph, the event is never transcended
   for the sake of something else: the photograph
   always leads the corpus I need back to the body I see;
   —  it is the absolute.
                                  —  Roland Barthes

music on bones

Course Objectives

Perceptual differences in methodology have historically kept the sciences apart from artistic practice. Artists and scientists who inquire self-reflexively: How am I observing? and What is doing the observing? probe the edges of 17th century, Cartesian limits. Transforming empirically based methodologies in a conscious, humanistic way requires our asking biological, experiential questions such as — What is the Tri-Cameral-Brain doing?— in order to discern more precisely the purpose and potential of our creativity.

John Szarkowski, in Looking at Photographs, describing the cameraless work of Man Ray said: "Actually, the word ‘photography’ stands for a family of processes united by the fact that they produce images through natural energies." While in science photography makes visible skeletal, cellular, and microscopic structures of the body through technological processes, in Art, the medium is more than apparatus. In Art, camera and lens serve only as an extension of the human body’s ability to see and preserve memories. Making images that resonate requires coming in touch with our physical, emotional and intellectual energies.

Embodied Camera investigates the original human camera, the Triune Brain. It relates human perceiving and receiving as one whole perception. It tracks a wide range of syntactical and technological devices employed to express conceptual notions or scientific discoveries visually. Select readings and discussion illuminate how photography’s technical processes, since its invention, has both constructed and recorded the interplay of verbal and visual communication between subject and object.

We’ll look at contemporary projects by artists whose intuitions are artistically bound in experiential forms of observation—embodiment—containment—interiority, in contrast to the hegemony of ocular vision, which “progress” in technology commands. In photography's scientific employment, we will look to new imaging technologies (ie: X-ray, MRI, CT scanning and other digital recording devices) used in medical practice for examination of the body. To develop a corporeal understanding of photography, a research/lab journal becomes the repository for observations and potential projects. By juxtaposing body and camera, a position between the physical body (experiential practice) and mind (scanning of systems and theories)is explored.


This is a project-based interdisciplinary course where informed research manifests into a chosen form of visual media. Selections from the course reader support short exercises. Documentation of experiential praxis in relation to materials and methods is encouraged. Journal sketches reflect your findings—as a lab notebook might function for a scientist or technician. Final projects morph directly from studio practice and thoughts collected in journal entries, short readings and short written essays.

    © 2003 Susannah Hays