Reflecting on this week’s class discussion in my graduate Visual Rhetoric and Multimodal Composition course, we have deconstructed photographic portraits to discover what it is that we often don’t see in images.
Errol Morris posits in, Believing Is Seeing (Observations On The Mysteries Of Photography):
“Images are plastic, malleable, and lend themselves to any and every argument” (217).
As you might imagine, the above photographs are images of famous actors, actresses, and models.
(1) Ambrose Olson.
(2) Ruslana Korshunova.
(3) Margaux Hemingway.
(4) Nafisa Joseph.
(6) Lucy Gordon.
(7) Sue Williams.
(8) Viveka Babaji.
(9) Jonathan Brandis.
The men and women in these photographs are the elite of our society.
They are the embodiment of extraordinary beauty, physical perfection, fame and glory. They are what so many of us strive to be. Most everyone wants to feel attractive. We are told that being attractive will make us wanted by others–because being beautiful gives us value.
However, what is not pictured, not seen, is that each of these individuals suffered profoundly from a deep sense of hopelessness and mental torment.
Their suffering was to the extent that it drove them to commit suicide.
This appears to be a montage of some of the world’s most beautiful people, and it is, because they are some of the world’s most beautiful people. But now, if we look deeper, we can see a greater truth emerge, in that each individual experienced not just a “celebrity life” of accolades, but their determinant reality was an inner world of destitute poverty. Even though they may have been in the limelight, theirs was a world of darkness. We might wonder what that self would look like.
Appearances are certainly not everything.
(1) April 22, 2010.
(2) June 28, 2008.
(3) July 1, 1996.
(4) July 29, 2004.
(5) May 23, 1987.
(6) May 20, 2009.
(7) September 2, 1969.
(8) June 25, 2010.
(9) November 12, 2003.
Morris further asserts,
“Photographs attract false beliefs the way flypaper attracts flies. Why my skepticism? Because vision is priviledged in our society and our sensorium. We trust it; we place our confidence in it.
Photography allows us to uncritically think.We imagine that photographs provide a magic path to truth.
What’s more, photographs allow us to think we know more than we really do.We can imagine a context that isnt really there” (92).