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Far Shadows

Selcuk Artut / Far Shadows

There are an estimated one billion security cameras in the world. When we add the number of cameras in our personal electronic devices to this figure, the total number reaches levels that exceed the human population in the world. Before the invention of the camera, the researcher’s curiosity about how we see things dates back to the present. Ibn al-Haytham, an Arab scientist living in the 10th century, was one of the important thinkers of the Islamic Golden Age, who argued that light is the attribute of objects that are themselves sources of light. It is claimed that upon invitation as a result of the success of his scientific studies, he was commissioned by the Fatimid sultan El-Hakim to develop ideas about the use of the Nile River. However, when he realized that he could not be successful in realizing these ideas, he feigned madness and between 1011-21 he was kept in a house arrest but there he wrote Kitab al-Manazir, the Book of Optics, one of the most important works of the optical world. The underpinnings of the dark days he lived in house arrest were hidden in the optical theories that he developed within the pages of his book. In this book, al-Haytham had the opportunity to explain the basic operating principles of the camera, such as the focal point, pinhole, in much detail. At a point where we came to a thousand years later, we experience the house arrest of Ibn-i Heysem collectively under the shadow of camera systems that it is impossible to wander outside without encountering. Moreover, as a result of the various possibilities offered to us today, we have been striving to be watched, at the same time grumbling that we have been constantly watched. While “Camera Obscura” means a remote, dim, dark room kept away from intervention, we have lost the sovereignty of that place to a great extent. Between the moral balance provided by the feeling that those prying eyes are always on us and the pressure of an authoritarian hegemony, we put ourselves in street arrest. Those eyes continue to follow us with curiosity from their dark, remote lands.