Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Photo Surrealism

Warning: lots of big words in this post.

About a year ago, while I saw a picture of Magrette's "La Reproduction Interdite" while I was at my local Border's. Upon leaving, I felt like an idea had been planted in my head that would one day want to bust out of my brain Bruce Lee style. This is what I came up with.

More recently, I have been thinking about how social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook have changed the way we use photography (or "the discursive practice of photography" as art/photo nerds call it). One of the biggest changes for me, has been the addition of the Myspace portrait into my life. That is to say that the self portrait has now become an important addition to vernacular photography, or in other words, the kind of stuff non-photo professionals take. It is now normal for people to take pictures of themselves, whereas just a few decades before, like when I was a kid, most people didn't really do that. When you needed a picture of yourself, you either got a friend to snap it of you or you had to pay someone to take your mug shot. While I am generally in support of this movement and believe it is good for the expression of humanity, my biggest pet peeve is by far, bar none, is the archetypical half naked shirtless muscle head taking a picture of himself on his cell phone in the bathroom mirror. For those of you who are confused, this is not cool, never has been, never will be anywhere near cool. Whoever decided that this was a good idea should probably be sent a box containing a bicycle kick to the face!!!

Michel Foucault, the famous 20th century postmodernist philosopher, famously described society as a panopticon (a kind of prison with a watch tower in the middle and the cells surrounding it). A prison that allows a few guards to keep an eye on many prisoners all at once, the trick being that the guards can see the prisoners, but the prisoners can't see the guards. Thereby making the prisoners act as if they are being watched at all times, despite the fact is impossible for such a thing to happen. Foucault goes on to say, that each of us play both parts, in society we are both guards and prisoners. We act in accordance to how we think our peers will judge us, because we also judge our peers.

By this logic, photography (which is often described as a mirror held up to humanity) becomes physical document of us watching each other, and a self portrait, a document of us watching ourselves. The age of Big Brother is here, and we are Big Brother, but in a good way. I still believe that photography is still an essential tool for creating empathy and helping us understand/express ourselves.

As previously stated, there are many tactless ways to express oneself. Like an annoying song played over and over again, each time I see the half naked mirror shot, it makes makes me want to break things. While I can't really break the world of this habit, what I can do through the power of imagination is take something that I hate and turn it into something that I like. What I wanted to do here was to take the half naked cell phone shot, and see if I could shoot it in a way I was ok with. I chose to make this a diptych ala David Hilliard style (whose work is amazing and far superior to mine) because I believe that when you piece the photographs together in your mind, the effect is very different from seeing the two as a single image. While I still hate the half naked cell phone shot, I am happy that I could create an image that makes me feel like I am both watching and being watched at the same time.

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