In the 1920s, Aleksandr Rodchenko suggested that the camera could and should be used as a tool of Soviet advancement, one capable of encouraging visual awareness in a mass audience. Traditional photography was not up to the task, since photographs mimicking painterly illusion offered no more than a middle vantage, a “belly-button” view, as Rodchenko termed it. Modern photography ought, he argued, to harness perspectives “above down and from below up and their diagonals.” The value of such exercises manifests in viewers who ordinarily “don’t see what [they] look at” being granted—via photographic experimentation—unusual perceptual (and perhaps intellectual) vantages.
The radical promise of Rodchenko’s unmoored, nomadic camera remains interesting, even while it’s likely impossible today to secure an angle (above down, below up, or anything else) that hasn’t been fully exploited. Indeed, the
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