Camera Situationism

Leendert van der Meer
I no longer considered the camera as just a producer of images, but also of situations.
Practice Autonomous Practices
Project Visual Culture
Major Photography
Year Graduation year

Almost every day I crossed the Binnenrotteplein on my way to Willem de Kooning Academy. I always crossed the square diagonally, because this was the most efficient route. During the winter of 2014 this behavioral pattern changed: I now zigzagged. Furthermore, a simple act like walking became complex, and instead of glancing around, I now looked straightforward. The alteration in my behavior was the result of an environmental change - the Markthal was built. This piece of architecture attracted many tourists who massively photographed the building. The Binnenrotteplein was transformed into a photographic shooting range in which not only the building was getting shot, but also the pedestrians.

From this experience, I no longer considered the camera as just a producer of images, but also of situations. In the presence of a camera people act and respond in a certain way. In other words, camera becomes a catalyst for certain types of behavior. Camera Situationism should be considered a collective term for perceiving the camera as a situation producer. My works explore this in multiple ways. They demonstrate situational aspects of the camera, as well provide an alternative perspective on the photographic medium.

Claiming Space, intervention, performance, video, tripods, DSLR cameras

Claiming Space


Whereas the panopticon enclosed its subjects, technology has produced a new type of ‘opticon’: the banopticon. Instead of building bridges, creating passageways and gathering places, the banopticon is constructed to intercept, repulse and filter. It is an instrument for exclusion.

By implementing four operators in a square formation on the Binnenrotteplein and having aimed their cameras towards the center, they managed to produce symbolic borders. Their presence suggests the transition from a public zone into a ‘forbidden zone’. These forbidden zones consist of multiple variations: ‘slipping zones’, ‘prickly zones’ and ‘nervous zones’. The latter is a place that cannot be entered unnoticeably, because there is a constant surveillance by cameras.

Cybernetic Surveyor

In contrast to an artisan, who stands behind a machine, the camera and its operator are intertwined. When using the camera as an extension of the human body, the artificial (camera) and natural (human body) fuse together. Consequently we can no longer speak of a ‘natural body’. Using the camera breaks down the clear boundaries between human and machine. In Cybernetic Surveyor, the operator should therefore be considered a cyborg: a hybrid of machine and organism at the same time.

Cybernetic Surveyor

Intervention, performance, CCTV camera, monopod, photograph

At Gunpoint

The eye of the camera isolates and makes its subject powerless. Just as a firearm, the camera makes its user legitimized to regulate behavior. The camera therefore becomes the producer of a social hierarchic game that exalts the operator into an authority and the subjected person into a victim. By pointing a hand-held camera on strangers and prescribing behavior, this given becomes explicit. Besides that, the camera is being relinquished to strangers. They may direct the scene however they want. In this process, the camera stimulates sadistic and masochistic feelings and the operator’s morality is being questioned.

Performance, video, hand-held camera

At Gunpoint

On Camera Situationism

Book, 536 pages

On Camera Situationism takes both a conceptual and technical approach on how the camera produces situations. In order to examine this more closely, several stagings with cameras are made that consequently result in situations. By analyzing the documentations of these situations, which are mainly produced by cameras, the influence of the camera becomes visible through human bodies. By combining theory with analysis, factors that contribute to the production of a camera situation unfold, and in doing so raise further questions on the potential consequences cameras have for its environment.