An optometry of ice cream

O.D.: Let the lamp affix its beam.

As the pioneer photographer Lewis Carroll understood, when a lens approaches a reflective surface

the surface can fold vision back on itself and make the act of seeing a complement to the state of being seen. Under that condition

(O.S.), there may seem to be seen (for instance) an orbit filled with a globe. In that globe, let there be partially visible below its half-reflective surface an image of a camera held by a man seeing through its lens.

You can visualize that. “Let be be finale of seem,” says the poem to you, calling your attention to its brilliantly lighted display. But in that display the lens, of all things, can’t be used for seeing. As soon as it started sinking into the globe, it stopped being an apparatus to serve you and became part of globe’s image, in globe’s orbit. And there you cannot enter. You are out in the black, where the light of O.D. shines past but not into. Empirical confirmation: you couldn’t see the man in the act of his being until you had read these words instructing you what his reflection was supposed to seem to be.

Glassy

Mirror and bowl. Window communicating light to an interior and lens collecting light across an exterior. Contemplative light and active light; sphere and separate sphere. Hand, reaching across; hands at the opposite edge, in pockets; hands, holding braced against the body in the middle an apparatus for seeing out that does not see in.

 

(Parmigianino, “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” about 1524, and “Two men in high silk hats, one with Kodak camera, on the White House grounds, Washington, D.C.,” April 22, 1889. The photographer’s name was Painter. Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/pictures /item/2002723173/.)