Photo by Mario Mercea, remixed by me, both images subject to this creative commons license
FLICKR GROUP: Sexy Girls in Yellow
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First, a confession: this post’s title has utterly nothing to do with today’s lukewarm pail of twaddle. Yesterday my wife asked me to try a bit of hot sauce in a bowl of barley soup I’d nearly finished while watching football. “Only a drop,” I cautioned. She squeezed out a drop and waited for me to try her enhanced creation. “The taste is too sharp,” I complained. She looked down at me with a disapproving expression. I rarely criticize her cooking; I rarely have any cause. “It’s because you have only a minimum of soup left,” she said dismissively as she snatched up my bowl and turned back toward the kitchen. Minimum Soup? I liked the phrase and vowed to use it as a title. And, of course, I told her later the soup was simply marvelous in its maximum form.
For about the fiftieth time in a row I am genuinely surprised autumn has suddenly arrived. Just yesterday we were in the midst of a scorching summer (or so it seems). Now, so soon, leaves are turning – and falling – and there’s more than a chill in the morning air. Next weekend Daylight Savings Time will end, pushing my close of workdays into darkness.
On the other hand, there have been crisp Fall days I remember as utterly glorious. Most of those days were spent in New York City, in October, under magnificent royal blue skies that perfectly complemented the bright yellow taxis, steel and glass skyscrapers and the surging throngs of people streaming briskly through the city. I have not been in the city in October for many years. Still, I have keen memories of the sights, sounds, smells and other delights of Manhattan during those October days and nights: Times Square at dusk, the myriad blazing signs above the crowds rushing to catch an eight o’clock curtain; the smell of steam rising through sidewalk grates mingled with the sweet and sour aromatic clouds wafting from busy restaurants, delis and food carts; hiking through the improbably green oasis of Central Park; finding an out of the way eatery in the Village; or marveling at sidewalk performers break dancing, juggling or playing jazz on a battered saxophone.
But the very best autumn day ever was the day I visited Swarthmore College in 1965. The sky was unbearably blue, the air a delicious blending of slight chill and soft breeze, and the dozens of still green, stout old trees casting scattered shadows on the green, manicured grass. That entirely magical day cast an irresistible spell over me and enticed me to make Swarthmore my first choice for college. The next Spring I was accepted and I began my freshman year September of 1966.
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It’s late. I’m tired. And sad. My teams lost. Tomorrow’s another day. More of my teams will lose. Then comes Monday.
I need something to pick me up. I get no kick from cocaine and mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all. How about some simmering glamour photos? Yes, all of these girls are winners!
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Photographs lie. Perhaps lie is too strong a word. Let me restate my premise: photographs deceive. The viewer’s mind naturally assumes what she sees in the photograph is real. She will form an opinion based upon that assumed reality. Quite often her opinion, her perception, is wrong. She has been deceived.
I am not talking only about photos which have been extensively altered with Photoshop or other software. Nor am I talking about fashion photography with its use of tons of light, makeup and hair stylists to turn an attractive woman into a siren of incomparable beauty. Regular photographs also lie – deceive – the viewer. The artist behind the camera chooses what to shoot and, more importantly, how to compose the image; she chooses, or provides, the light, the point of view, and other elements of composition to create the artistic effect she desires. A photograph by a good photographer is stunning; the immediate emotional impact on the viewer is strong.
With painting our eye instinctively knows the paint and canvass does not depict literal reality. The viewer’s eye is drawn more to the artist’s use of form and color and the texture of the painting than his subject. Even with the more realistic paintings created in past centuries our modern vision is not fooled. Photographs, however, remain for us depictions of the real. Even though we may intellectually know the image doesn’t reflect literal truth, we still react to the reality displayed much more than to how it that reality is distorted and displayed
The photographer may use the emotional power of photographic reality on the viewer to good effect. On the other hand, the visceral impact of the image may overwhelm the viewer. How to balance the image to avoid having the perceived reality of the photo overwhelm its composition is a choice the artistic must make.
I am fooled by my own photographs. Even when I have extensively altered the image by adding or removing various elements or changing the image’s color, tone or composition I still am seduced into believing my deceitful image depicts something which actually existed. Take this photo of a brick wall, for example:
The intensity of the various colors in the bricks is unreal, an effect created with Photoshop. I took the photo in April of 2006. I’ve looked at it hundreds of times since. Every time I do I viscerally believe the wall’s colors are real.
This image below of my nephew David’s bride Mary is another example. She’s a lovely young woman; but I used all of my dark Photoshop art to create an illusion:
Essentially this is a glamour photo. I spent considerable time altering elements of her face, removing every blemish, heightening her skin color and brightening her eyes and intensifying their color. Altogether, I must have spent more than half an hour working to modify the original photo. Even though I know my detailed work recreated and enhanced Mary’s face, Every time I look at it, I fall hard for the stunningly beautiful woman depicted in the finished photograph. My brain knows my altered Mary is not real. My eye – and my heart – disagree.
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