Totem 196

The ‘fourth wall’, known in film & cinema, is the conceptual barrier separating the fictional world from the real world. The fourth wall ‘breaks’ when an actor looks directly into the camera, drawing attention to the barrier. When the audience is addressed in this way, they become acutely aware of the medium instead of being immersed anonymously in the experience.

It could be argued that breaking the fourth wall does not apply to photography; people look at the camera all the time. There is no ‘breaking’ moment because there is no ‘before’ and ‘after’ glance. However, as the Drabble comic shows, there are possibilities to demonstrate this conceptual barrier.

In ‘The Painter’ the concept is subtle; There are two frames of experience given in the art. The artist’s experience of the canvas and the viewer’s experience of the photograph. Conceptually, the paint splatter draws these two barriers together to imply a ‘break’.

The effect brings attention to the two mediums. In this way, the scene both portrays a barrier and functions as a barrier. It is nuanced, admittedly, a conceptual house of mirrors, but hopefully breaking walls.

‘Totem71’ dramatizes this more clearly, where the ‘photographer’ stands with his camera (a black box, rectangle), framing and capturing the Totem. His gaze back at us is a traditional fourth wall break, bringing attention to his/our frame of subjectivity, a Totem in a rectangle. He watches as we watch.

“Totem 71”