Saturday, August 06, 2005

Up Your Nose

After checking out quite a few blogs over the past 6 months and looking at my college age daughter's digital pics and eyeing some web sites and magazines, I think I'm seeing a trend.

Looks like facial and body part close ups--including extreme profiles, out-of-expected perspectives, and especially up-your-nose shots--are starting to gain some momemtum.

Knees, shins, and feet also seem good if a face isn't available. See my post "Renting Wonderland" for a sample of one of these kinds of pics from Rebecca's digital stuff.

The shots taken from below in ground-to-sky perspective really make me laugh. The thing you notice most are people's seemingly cavernous nasal passages.

I guess that perspective is supposed to be the "little viewer" looking up from below at the Godzilla-like subjects. Even toddlers look like giant Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloons from that point of view when their parents take their pics from that angle (wink-wink, nudge-nudge, you know who you are).

There's a populist thing going on with that angle too. Everyday people look like they're a part of Mt. Rushmore, or maybe even Mt. Olympus.

I'm guessing the conscious idea is to be intimate and creative in spite of the potentially narcissistic gigantism.

If so I'm all for it.

Mostly, though, I think these kinds of shots are the product of people taking pictures of themselves using digital cameras or cell phones. In many cases the person taking the shot and the subject of the shot are obviously the same person.

Human anatomy (in particular, our limited arm length), combined with a self-wielded digital camera, seems to favor close up shots of the face, "ground to sky" up-your-nose shots, and "sky to ground" shots of people's knees and feet hanging out in various places.

Pretty interesting and I can understand the attraction.

But for someone of a different generation and perspective, it can also come across as a little goofy. Most of these shots look more like a personal, digital version of
the old school tradition of jamming a bunch of friends into a photo booth, shoving your faces (or other body parts) as close to the lens as possible, and then letting silliness take over.

Unusual perspectives on the human face and body are pretty old news, though, in the annals of creativity.

Albrecht Durer, one of my favorite early Renaissance guys, painted himself face first to the world and caused a scandal.

For almost 1200 years western artists refused to paint anyone but Christ from that perspective until Durer broke the rules.

And nobody would have even considered painting their self-portrait from that perspective--that was considered self-absorbed and irreverant and way beyond the pale.

Obviously, tastes and traditions have changed a little bit since then. You can check out the offending image below.

I have to say, though, that I'm glad Durer didn't fill a canvas with an intimate look at his nasal passages. Call me krusty, I guess.

If this whole style really catches on and becomes conventionally hip, I'd guess ground-to-sky takes of Jesus and his most holy nasal cavities (while preaching the Sermon on the Mount?) can't be too far off in the future. Every evangelical campus ministry and high school youth group will want that kind of thing on its websites and brochures. Or maybe we'll get really close up sky-to-ground shots of his feet in the River Jordan (just before being baptized by John the Baptist?)

And don't forget the relentless political spin machines in their efforts to reach the young. We might see the faces and upper bodies of 50 and 60-something male white politicians depicted from ground-to-sky perspective. Who wouldn't want to look up at Bill Frist and John Edwards as if they were pinstriped skyscrapers of moral rectitude and towering wisdom.

Definitely possible, though I don't even want to think about the nose hair on guys that age. Ughhh. Thank God for photoshop, eh?


Blogger TPB said...

Perhaps this experimental picture taking is in part due to the invention of the digital camera. It allows the photographer an endless and seemingly free supply of instant photographs.

Interesting, how in the past, people would get dressed very formally and pose for pictures since they were so expensive. Nowadays, all you really need is hardrive space.

My mother would have spanked me for the number of "nose" shots and self-portraits that the youth take with my digital camera. But I find them interesting!

9:38 AM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

Ya, I agree about digital cameras changing everything. Basically, you don't have to worry about taking a bad shot anymore cuz you can just delete it immediately, so it encourages a lot more experimentation. That's fantastic, even though we've all got to look at lots of bad pictures of somebody's elbow or their right nostril as a result!

11:44 AM  

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