Camera Sequence

By “the camera sequence” Barfield means the historically identifiable stages in the metaphoric internalization of the camera which resulted in the advent of Camera Man.

Barfield acknowledges that the process is not easy to describe, for it betrays “a certain leapfrogging element” (Rediscovery of Meaning 103). Beginning in the Renaissance, the sequence includes, however, at least the following elements:

  • the perfection of perspective
  • the invention of the camera obscura
  • the invention of photography
  • projection of photographs (from the magic lantern to the movie projector)
  • the theories of psychological projection and animism
  • the appearance of “Camera Man”

For Barfield, the camera sequence is inextricable from the entire “Copernican Revolution” in thought, from the discoveries of Renaissance astronomy to the philosophy of Kant, that gave rise to the modern world view:

The camera obscura [as developed by Athanasius Kircher] is an emblem of that species of Copernican Revolution in the human psyche which was quite as much the cause as it was the consequence of the Copernican Revolution in science. I mean the revolution, formulated rather than initiated by Immanuel Kant, whereby the human mind more or less reversed its conception of its own relation to its environment. It is more like an emblem, because the camera obscura (considered as the original source of the whole camera sequence) was also instrumental in actually bringing about the change. . . . We may better call it a symbol, since the camera sequence as a whole was part of the change which it betokens or symbolizes.
(Rediscovery of Meaning 100)