One of the most striking elements in Nicola Griffith's Slow River is the use of cameras. Throughout the text, the picture seen by the camera somehow shows a raw truth, and is able to catch characters at their most vulnerable moments, and with Lore, somehow seems to draw out her vulnerability.
The use of the camera is first introduced when Lore is taped begging for ransom. Her vulnerability at this moment and the total stripping of her defenses by her captors shows an underlying truth of a scared child. What is more interesting, though, is how knowing others have seen this video creates a level of paranoia in Lore once she escapes. She has a constant fear (though the intensity of it caries as time passes) that she will be recognized from the video. She both does not want to go back to her family, and, more importantly, does not want people to associate her with the person who was trapped in the camera's eye.
When Lore uses the camera against others, specifically Ruth and Ellen, she feels guilt, but she also feels justified in her actions. Though she cries as she films her friends, she responds to Ruth's subsequent confrontation by thinking "You've seen pictures of me in far more humiliating circumstances; and my abductors did not even have the courtesy to swap my head for another's" (197). This point is interesting in several ways. When Lore is in control, there is a sense that she has earned it, and that being the one wielding the camera is some sort of ultimate control. There is also the issue of body over face. Yes, the face is far more recognizable than the body to people. Yet Ruth implies that, in the situation of sex, especially in porn, it is not the faces that matter, but the body that is being traded and it is the body that becomes identity.
When Lore was younger, she made porn films of her parents using stock bodies and grafting her parents' heads on the bodies. When there s film, it is what is filmed that is directly important--any edits become the work of fantasy. Lore's manipulation of her parents' heads and environment on film does not violate them, because she did not actually capture them in a moment of weakness. It is this capture, this trap that film creates, that is so important n the text, and which justifies Ruth's anger and sense of betrayal.
When Lore manipulates the consensual footage she takes of Tom, he says he does not want to see the final result because he doesn't want to see himself looking confused and old and pathetic. There is again the sense that what the camera sees becomes truth.
The final, and perhaps most important use of the camera, comes when Lore tells the story of her life to the camera to be used as a starting point for evidence for the police. When she sets up the camera, she observes "The camera lens was like a cold fish eye, unblinking. I stared at it, forgetting what I was supposed to say" (326). The overwhelmingness of being exposed, laid bare to the camera is shown here.
There is also the interesting concept of the fisheye lens. There is the sense that the camera sees more than a normal eye would see, that there is no escape and there is no ability to hide any part of oneself, really, when presented with the camera. It speaks to Tom's fear, that there is a part of himself that really is that confused old man, and Ruth's anger at her violation by the camera, the capturing of her body against her will, and Lore's kidnapping being all the more humiliating because her degraded self was shown to the world.