Jan 23, 2009


I was originally planning to title this post "A boring image". Not because the image above is of a mundane street scene, but because the kind of digital alteration it represents has become so commonplace it is a cliche.

Instead, I thought I'd tell a story about leaps.

At a coffee counter the other day, the young professional sitting next to me informed me sagely that he no longer trusts media. "It's all lies," he said. "All of it?" I asked. "Well, all except the National Geographic." I laughed, and spent the next fifteen minutes trying to convince him of how the yellow-bordered-one exoticizes semi-naked tribespeople. The conversation drifted to photography and photoshopping.

What has this got to do with leaps? Well, I told my coffee-friend a story about an exhibition I saw a few years back of large scale color photographs. Each photograph showed the artist leaping from an improbably high place - a treetop, a window, and so on. "Really good photoshopping," I said at the time to a bystander, using that knowing tone Keanu used in the Matrix when he said "Really good noodles." We nodded at each other.

But when many years earlier I came across Yves Klein's famous photograph, I was captivated by it. I stared at it for several minutes. Given the date (1960) and the black-and-white newspaper quality of it, I assumed it was everything it looked to be. I puzzled over what I was seeing.

Naturally, I had it all turned around. The artist of the recent color photographs turned out to be an extreme sports fan. He actually liked leaping off from high places, and had injuries to prove it. (SPOILER AHEAD) Yves Klein's much earlier photographs were, of course, a clever fake, made with a double exposure and a rather large mattress.

The way we leap has changed in the last forty years. When we see images of the unbelievable, we used to leap to an assumption of reality. Now we leap to an assumption of unreality.

I was just beginning to warm to this topic when a semi-naked tribesgirl came in and ordered two coconuts.

No comments: