I’m in a mood. Earlier this week, I posted on Facebook:
I’m sitting here in the relative darkness thinking that “pretty” pictures don’t please me much at the moment. I want images that cause one to stop scrolling, question what they see, wonder what I was thinking, second-guess what they’re thinking, and leave thinking they’ve seen something different, not just another “pretty” picture.
We shoot plenty of “pretty” pictures and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. What I noticed as I was processing this week’s images, though, was that I was working as though I was some form of automaton. Were it not for the different orientations of the images, I could have probably written a Photoshop action that would process all the photos for me. I was creating “pretty” pictures without actually feeling anything.
DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! (an Ancient reference to the television series Lost In Space, for you who missed the good stuff)
It’s one thing to scroll through a series of other people’s photos online and feel no emotional attachment. Why else do Instagram and Tumbler exist? When we do the same with our own images, though, it’s time to stop and reconsider what we’re doing. We cannot expect people to have a reaction to something we had little emotional investment in creating. I couldn’t let that happen.
At that moment, my phone squawked with an email notification. I was being informed that an article on the numerical observation of emergent spacetime supersymmetry at quantum criticality had been published. Fascinating reading. A few ignored messages below that one shouted a warning: “MERCURY HAS ENTERED RETROGRADE!” As though on cue, my computer monitor flickered, because, you know Mercury in retrograde is supposed to have a negative effect on anything electronic. Suddenly, I was feeling an emotion. Not a positive emotion, perhaps, but something beats nothing, right?
When I was a kid, back in the Dark Ages, televisions were behemoth appliances that could crush a person if they fell on one. They were composed of a litany of vacuum tubes that controlled the video display. Every once in a while, one of those tubes would falter and when it did, strange things could happen to the picture on the screen. For some reason, our television went through horizontal hold tubes at a rate of roughly one per year, typically right about the time all the Christmas specials were being aired. The screen would scroll in a frustrating manner until the tube was replaced.
On contemporary televisions and other display devices, graphics cards are the problem. When one of those starts acting up, we can get all manner of weird and unusual pictures across our screens. Depending on the device, though, those cards are not always replaceable. Sometimes it means getting a new device. Ouch. Just in time for Black Friday.
The thing about video distortion is that they typically don’t last but a moment. They don’t actually alter the source image, just our perception of that image. Hello, Life Metaphors for seven billion, please! Our emotions do the same thing to our perception of life at any given moment. They alter our perception of reality. Seen through the busted tube of anger, fear, jealousy, loneliness, depression, or anxiety, our view of life and the world around us becomes distorted. From our perspective, at that moment, life looks all messed up.
Fortunately, the source is never changed by our perception. “Pretty” pictures are still pretty. Life is still basically good. When we address whatever is causing our emotional distress, our view of life changes
Hold it, though. Stop for a second. What if we can’t “fix” the problem? What if our “device” won’t allow us to replace the graphics card? Emotional issues don’t always come with simple solutions.
Perhaps, just run with me on this, sometimes it is more important to find the beauty and the artistry of the distortion than it is to try and adjust the picture back to “normal.” One doesn’t cure depression or fear or anger as simply as changing a tube or taking a pill. The challenge still exists. What we can do, though, is learn to appreciate the distortion, understand how it affects us, and realize that sometimes the distortion is our reality, at least for the moment.
The images in this collection represent that distortion, a momentary aberration that affects millions of people, especially around the holidays. For some, this is little more than a month-long glitch that ends January 2. For others, though, this is an ongoing reality, a challenge to see life for what it is through the constant interference of emotion that one truly doesn’t control.
OUR HUGE THANKS to Sarah Arvin, one of the most beautiful faces on the planet, for giving us four hours of her time on a Sunday evening, and to Victoria F S Nieke for stepping in and doing makeup while Kat was off learning stuff.
For the sake of continuity, we’ve divided the gallery into two parts. First is the distortion. Take your time with these. Look carefully. Then, because we still do need conventionally pretty pictures in our lives, I’m including a second gallery with a half dozen of the original images, before the distortion. Click on any thumbnail to view the entire gallery.