Inspection Machines

Tourists run this town during this late part of summer. The city overexposed under their gaze. The whole world is a camera. The whole world is rotten. Susan Sontag was right when she inferred that tourism didn’t really exist until photography was made portable. “As photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, they also help people to take possession of space in which they are insecure,” she writes in On Photography, 1977.

Photography has been freed from the chains of glass, metal, copper, silver, and paper. Images have been freed from industrialization, and its production happens out of sight. Hidden like manufacturing is to the American consumer. The loss of manufacturing in the United States has eroded our overall sense of craftsmanship. America has thus become a nation full of quality controllers, inspecting products fresh off the boat. We will become machines, but not the type that Warhol wished upon everyone. Instead of machines of production, we are becoming machines of inspection.

A kind of machine that only looks for problems. Like the gun with a conscience from Nas’ I Gave You Power, 1996: “He squeezed harder / I didn’t budge, sick of the blood / Sick of the thugs, sick of the wrath of the / next man’s grudge”. The camera is like a gun. Antonioni’s Blow Up, 1966, talked about this. We have been so used to seeing through a camera that we’re numb to its power. We’ve become the camera and have digested its mechanisms into our own. Now we wait for the sun to move into perfect position, for the bus to move out of the way, and hope our subject doesn’t blink.


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