#1 (Visual): Crowd #3 (Pelican Beach), 2013, “Face in the Crowd” by Alex Prager
“You really feel like you are not quite sure what world you are in, if it’s real or if it’s fake and I think that’s something we can relate to in the world that we are living in right now.”-Alex Prager
Face in the Crowd is a series of large-scale photographs featuring subjects in tableau on constructed sets; coupled with dramatic lighting, elaborate costumes and ostentatious props. Personally, the contrivance in the mise-en-scene of this photograph is telling — costumed characters deliberately striking “natural” poses, all of them meticulously spaced around the photo. An incongruous sense of order is elicited in this seemingly messy photograph, adding to the whole artifice. Crowd #3 was staged and shot entirely on a Hollywood soundstage, with Prager assuming the role of the director, planning the specific roles for her characters, props, makeup and lighting of the photo weeks beforehand. Much of the work is done “post-production” — using software to digitally colour the image, hyper-stylizing it. Likewise, social media users assume a “directorial” role — photos displayed on social media are a result of a laborious consideration into the angle, composition, editing etc. of the photograph. Drawing her inspiration from the simulacrum of cinematic images in art contexts, Prager’s work speaks of saturated colours, overt props and the grandiose spectacle of Hollywood cinema. Perhaps, this is a metaphor for our attempts to do the same — exaggerating facets of our lives in our photos for the visual “spectacle” of everyone.
#2 (Video): Sjezus zeg, Zilla — Photoshop by Zilla van den Born
“It intrigues me that a photo has an insidious, ambiguous relationship with reality, because there is a constant battle going on between the two photographic considerations: showing the photographed image as beautifully as possible and telling the truth.” –Zilla van den Born
Zilla van den Born posted an album on Facebook consisting of photoshopped images chronicling a 42-day pseudo “holiday” to Southeast Asia, all within the confines of her Amsterdam home, just to prove a point — the ease of manipulating reality in social media via photographs. The abovementioned video presents how, with the help of a professional photographer and post-production specialist, she superimposed posed photographs of herself in holiday attire onto actual images of tourist landscapes. From photoshopping every photo to revamping her bedroom to resemble an Oriental hotel room, Zilla reinforced the fact that while we often lambast the heavily airbrushed photographs of models, we should not overlook that ordinary people fabricate self-made realities on social media too. Her experiment underlines how a photograph’s purpose in documenting reality has morphed into a tool one uses to parade a facet of himself that he wants others to perceive. The pathos evoked in the shock one experiences from realising the falsity of her photographs provokes one to think about how photographs insidiously distort reality. Similarly, we hope to use our work to provoke thought on the premeditated cultivation of a virtual image on social media, and how one should temper whatever he sees on social media with adequate discernment.