Last night I watched Cemetery Junction, a film by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Based in the 1970s the film tells the story of three friends who handle their lives in three different ways. One has his head down at a manual job and just wants to live his life. One is trying to get on but, while he has a “white collar” job, he is disillusioned by the mundanity and inhumanity of the work. The third is a rebel who usually resorts to punching someone. Gervais plays a father and Merchant has a cameo. The bosses daughter becomes romantically involved with one of the friends and her dream of becoming a photographer and traveling the world sparks his decision to make a break. Though the plot is fairly pedestrian Gervais and Merchant adorn it with some great dialogue, vivid humour and a passable rendition of Slade’s Cum On Feel The Noise.
The backdrop is the world of my youth. Housing estates, ghastly wall paper, old Ford Escorts and overgrown foliage. This got me reminiscing. 35mm cameras, slam door trains where did it all go? Why do we now disdain that wall paper? Why are we suckers for the “new shape” BMW? Why is it that there are no patches of wild amidst our housing estates? Nostalgia no doubt but come on! In 40 years time nobody will give a stuff for iPads or Onesies either.
Browsing around this morning I came across the work of Australian photographer Dean Bradshaw. Some very impressive work. Some of it akin to realist paintings. Mr. Bradshaw is a comercial photographer who creates images for advertising and his Startrac work is amazing. These images are perfect. The lighting fantastic and the people frozen in time like manikins. The images could easily be mistaken for paintings but the accompanying video shows how Mr. Bradshaw created them. Photographing the actors in studio conditions with as much care as any Vogue shoot he deposits them onto a background with software tools. While Mr. Bradshaw’s skill with a camera is key the makeup, scene preparation, lighting and software are also critical to the final image.
The Internet is littered with references to Soviet era censorship decrying the doctoring of photographs as a sinister indication of a totalitarian regime. Here Nikolai Yezhov has been removed from a photograph of Stalin.
Yet it’s common knowledge that all magazines now doctor pictures of models to remove blemishes, enhance features and usually make models skinnier. Others have blogged about these excesses where models have lost or gained limbs through the ineptness of the photoshop operative.
There are now online tutorials available to assist the amateur and last September the Daily Mail ran an article showing how artists are modifying photos to create hybrid images; half doctored photograph and half digital fantasy.
The images created by Mr. Bradshaw show how artists and technician can control the whole environment and, even though they use real people and cameras the result is pure fantasy. In a world where these images are ubiquitous and backed up by messages exhorting us to buy associated products it’s no wonder we end up prizing stuff over the environment, people and time. I think it was Norman Mailer who observed that the Soviet propaganda machine was nothing compared to the Western marketing industry.