… in which I repent for my visual sins

After having finished yesterday’s translation of Anna Achmatova’s poem “the Echo”, I decided to perk things up a bit and insert some relatively random visuals into the mix. These pictures can be seen during the first segment of my Flash animation – only very briefly so, as the translation races on; not allowing the viewer to focus on the visuals very precisely.

Picture of the sky, with a BMW X3 sitting next to me while I lie down on the ground. Other than some cropping and resizing, this one hasn’t been edited.

Basically, what I did was… almost fall asleep, take a last sip of coffee, Google the most prominent word found within each sentence, select the most appropriate picture for it, insert it into the animation before publishing the whole thing and falling asleep after all. Today, it occurred to me that this was unfair from an artistic viewpoint.

Just because Google Images allows me to quickly rip pictures from anywhere, doesn’t imply that these very pictures were meant to be used as “fill-up” material on a no-name blog like Bladsite.nl. Just because someone might need a long-winded poem on Carl Gustaf Mannerheim right away, doesn’t mean he should just kidnap it from my website, mangle and torture it before publishing it under his/her own name. Most people understand this concept of crediting unique text quite well, by the way.

Look, it’s my foot (+ damaged footwear)! I’m ascending a small stairways. Fooled around with aperture sizes a bit, added my favorite filter: the “crosshatch” brush from Photoshop.

Well: what’s done is done. I try to give credit where it is due. Common pictures of common objects can be found anywhere on the Net – they’re community property, so to speak. Only when it’s bleeding obvious that a certain picture belongs to a specific (group of) person(s), one’s conscience should start to get worried.

Most of the time, I’ll “steal” such a picture and edit it according to my own needs & wishes, mentioning the original source within the image’s “alt” (description) tag. Sometimes, though, I genuinely forget to abide by my own laws – it’s only because Bladsite is a low-profile site, that problems are unlikely to occur thereafter.

Kitty-cat “Domino”, taking a break from sun-bathing. No filters or heavy editing. I liked the contrast of the sun-dipped area with the black mass that is Domino.

Why am I making such a big deal out of this, you might ask – and with good reason. Basically everything on the Internet is available for free, these days (one way or the other). Text, pictures, videos – you name it. But just as there’s a difference between a best-selling novel and a take-away menu leaflet, one should note that one picture might be worth a thousand words – whereas others aren’t worth a single comment. Kinda like this blog (self-deprecation is the best form of mockery).

Some pictures are works of art, the embodiment of inexpressible feelings. The combination of a visible environment put into the perspective of a certain time frame, subjected to variables like weather and atmosphere – all these meaningless words become irrelevant while experiencing a proper photograph. Books have been written as a means of deciphering paintings; paintings of little-known books have prevailed over their depicted subjects as time passed by. It seems wrong to treat a beautiful picture with less respect than a mediocre poem; and yet, that’s what’s happening most of the time.

Words are simple tools we can bend to do our bidding; every now and then, we’ll come up with new words, or use existing words in a different context. A picture can be bent and broken, rearranged by anyone looking at it. One photograph might yield a thousand different descriptions – and as such, acts as a goldmine of inspiration to us, us lonesome writers, the flawed photographers of that confined kind of imagery we call “language”.

Kitty-cat “Witnie”, walking out of sight after having taken off her hiking boots. You can tell I took these last two pictures shortly after one another; I like this one better, as it implies some sort of backstory.

So today, I decided to give it a whirl and went out to take my own pictures. Obviously, I made a classic mistake initially, trying to put style over substance. Swirly photos of speeding dogs, dancing leafs dangling against a brick wall; pointless Photoshop filters adding sponge-like spots in pre-arranged places.

Cheap tricks like letting in too much sunlight, “artsy” techniques (such as photographing through the grates of an iron face), artificial lay-outs intended to weird people out – I tried them all. In the meantime, aperture and diaphragm settings remained something of an enigma. Most of the time I couldn’t even get the “focus” part right.

A fence + my shoes, top-down view. Again, “crosshatch” brush. It kinda breathes an atmosphere of stagnation, or something-rather.

After an hour had passed, I found myself ending up with 62 pictures – half of which were flukes, and the other in dire need of heavy editing. “This is something of a job,” I thought while resizing, de-saturating and cropping the final results. Most of them were just pictures of cats, fences, walls – no atmosphere to be found or anything, no material worthy of a novel. “A few sentences – nay, words – would do, at this point,” my brain craved for attention; and through a combination of persistence, slightly-increasing agility and sheer luck, something worth saving showed up.

I’ve added a few of these not-completely-and-utterly useless photographs throughout this post, accompanied by something of a description.

Oooh! Edgy! I call it “Last view from the aligator’s mouth”. Naturally, it’s just a view of the skies and some trees from in between a fence post and a brick wall. Using the “e-sumi” filter and some motion blur, I was hoping to add a grim and “panicky” tone to it all.

Eventually, the Google-bots will come to my place and perform their soulless job of harvesting indices, including lists of pictures. A few of these will end up on Google Images (probably on pages 30 and beyond), and someone might feel tempted to “steal” them, apply a few filters here and there, cut off some corners or add a nice little bezel. No harm done, glad to be of service, if you feel the need to credit me: all the better.

I’ll stick to my poorly-paid job as a self-described word-smith, thank you very much. But here’s to hoping said person is going to go out, and shoot his/her own pictures of squirrels dancing through tree-tops one day or the other.

If only to realize that the Olympus Pen can be mightier than the written word.

More pictures on the following page

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One Response to “… in which I repent for my visual sins”

  1. Design of this blog is DAMN GOOD. I like it.

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