And I have been wondering lately, wondering a lot actually, about what has become of the image. The photographic image to be precise. The reflection is not nostalgic, melancholic or anything like that; it is critical, whimsical and with any luck at all optimistic. The ease, speed and technical apparatus for taking pictures has become absolutely and totally ubiquitous. Instagram is everywhere, curating assembled visions of the world by simply adding a # in front of a word. A couple of clicks here and there and one has a high quality, limited edition, audience focussed bound volume, in full colour and showing all the smiles and chuckles of the quotidian.
One cannot but think of Seymour Parrish’s overdub “Family photos do keep smiling faces. Births, weddings, holidays, children’s birthday parties… People take pictures of the happy moment in their lives. Someone looking through a photo album could conclude we had lead a joyous, leisurely existence. Free of tragedy. No one ever takes a picture of something they want to forget.” [One Hour Photo, 2002]
Now, we are taking photographs of all our moments, not always the smiley face happy times (though there is always a plethora of grins, real and staged, to wade through). What is interesting is asking ourselves whether this represents the final secularization of the image, of all images. Does this strip away meaning? Does it prove that looking for meaning was/is a red herring?
In many ways, the “art” photographer’s job was indeed to try and accumulate the images of those things that we very well may want to forget. Sometimes this could take the guise of making a statement on various constructions of social co-existence, recording a moment of ephemeral passage, creating a record of whatever. All this fancy language seems utterly useless to interpret what is happening now that these statements are made by vast curated assemblages represented by the #tag.
The image is finally free of the maker, is it?
And what of tourism and knowledge; is there a season for both and, if so, is it the same season?
The election ran on forever; the potential elected carved of the same cheap Italian marble as so much tchotchke that collects minuscule flakes of dead flesh all over the world. Nope,nothing original here. But it begs the question: Would we really expect change? Could we deal with it?
Change is much like choice; it is always just over there beyond reach; a rock as Sisyphus would say. Nothing seems to come without some level of tumult, a friction of signals. This is the period of unrest, anxious manoeuvring knowing a direction should be taken but the signage is weathered, paint long since faded by the sun. Every path looks just about as unkept. Any choice will change things, but every choice offers brambles, deadfall and general muck.
This all has very little with why I took and decided to use these photographs. I can still call them photographs can’t I? There were thunderstorms all around, a strange stereo of thunder off in various distances mixed with that interesting sound and smell of tires on wet-warm pavement. The moment called for the contrast of mixing the flash with natural light (fairly warm and dim). I knew the flag would pop like crazy, as would the ice cream cone. It was possible to get a bit of information from the sign and maintain the “glowiness” of the neon, again, the flash was useful for that.
The images capture a certain Canadian vanity I may have that always wants to treat America as “
the simulacrum“; not just Canadian I guess as I am just now recalling a text by Umberto Eco (Travel’s in Hyper Reality) that explores this idea quite eloquently. But the image are are really very tongue-in-cheek since I am very aware of this strange kind of transverse orientalism; it is more me-looking-at-myself-being-condescending-and-aloof than anything else. I always wonder how much of this come through and how much gets lost in the translation.