The positives and negatives of photography

In Bellocq’s Ophelia the technology of photography can provide both benefits and limitations. Photography benefits Ophelia, as it is her hobby, passion and escape. She enjoys “the camera’s way of capturing/the sparkle of plain dust floating on air” (Trethewey 27). Ophelia finds that photography is able to capture something beautiful in the mundane. Even in a dull scene, the camera can produce a photograph that glistens. Ophelia comes to recognize that photography cannot only make the ordinary exciting, but can also capture someone to remember. Ophelia, in a letter to Constance, asks Constance if she can “take [her] photograph, fix/an image of [her] for my table/to accompany what is left in [her] head” (Trethewey 30). Here, photography has the ability to let the mind retain more information. Taking Constance’s photograph and placing it in her home, can remind Ophelia of her friend and all the memories that belong with her. Without the photograph, the memories of Constance my unfortunately fade. This technology also benefits Ophelia by giving her happiness and control. Ophelia states that she “thrills the magic of [photography]” (Trethewey 43).  She finds such joy in transforming a living image into something that is tangible. She is able to manipulate what goes in the frame and can produce an image that she thinks is beautiful. Ophelia exclaims, “what power/i find in transforming what is real” (Trethewey 44). Ophelia, instead of being controlled by the prostitution house, has control and power over the photography.  She can choose who and what to photograph and alter the photograph into any way she likes.

However, photography has its detriments as well. Ophelia claims that she has “learned the camera well-the danger/of it, the half-truths it can tell” (Trethewey 30). Photography can only capture a moment in time, and leave out most details of a situation. It can paint a picture of a scene, but not portray it accurately. It can show an emotion, but without words and actions, the emotion can easily be misconstrued and faked. Ophelia looks at “what [Bellocq] can see through his lens/and what he cannot…what the camera misses”(Trethewey 43). Here, the readers are able to see that photography is limited. It can pick out a specific object, person, or scene to focus on, but it will never be able to capture its entire essence. Some part will be left out of the lens, and the viewer of the photograph has a skewed view. The camera conveys falsified images and has to leave out important details. Although photography has its benefits, one has to be careful of its limitations.

1 comment
  1. Ali, do you think that one of the benefits of photography might also be these gaps? Mull that one over…

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