Photography: The Many Adventures of Baby Jack

I have been following a site on tumblr that I want to share.  It is about the adventures of a Disney Vinylmation called Baby Jack.  Vinylmations, a Disney brand, consist of a 3” or 9” figure that are considered collectibles.  Baby Jack is a 3” Vinylmation of Jack Skellington from the Nightmare Before Christmas, a stop motion movie created in 1993. Jack Skellington is created by Tim Burton.

Looking at the many images on the site, the photographer places Baby Jack in everyday situations.  Baby Jack is experiencing life as a person.  He does not seem to care that his size is different or that he never changes his expression.  The placement of Baby Jack in these situations conveys expressive content.

Baby Jack

Waiting to enter George Washington’s home in Mt. Vernon, Virginia

Look at the first photo to the left.  Here Baby Jack is waiting in line to enter Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington near Alexandria, Virginia.  His smaller size does not draw attention from all the people around.  No one has turned to look at him.  He is just like everyone else waiting to enter but in reality he is not like the others.  He is a 3” inanimate plastic toy.  The photographer has made us discount the properties of the Vinylmation and allows us to see him experiencing the same everyday life events of a person.   We quickly identify with Baby Jack because we are viewing the narrative through his eyes in this worm’s eye view.

Waiting for take-off.

Waiting for take-off.

Remember on your last flight when the steward made sure you were all buckled up before the plane took off?  Remember the feeling of the seat belt across your waist?  Not the most comfortable position!  Look at the second photograph to the left.  There is Baby Jack doing exactly what we did.  Does it look comfortable?  Absolutely not!  We don’t even need to see his expression change.  The photographer has conveyed the situation with perfect clarity.  The placement of the elements in the photograph conveys the narrative.  Baby Jack is entitled to a seat all by himself and he is following the rules of take-off by using his seat belt.  The seat belt is constricting his body in a most uncomfortable portrayal.  Poor Baby Jack… I bet he can’t wait for the seat belt light to go off.  The viewer identifies with the situation and remembers the emotions felt at that time.  We know exactly what Baby Jack is feeling in this situation.   Here again we have this plastic Vinylmation taking on life as a person.

Visit the photographer’s interpretation of everyday life through the eyes of Baby Jack at http://babyjackvm.tumblr.com/

 

 

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Charles Marville

Guest Blogger:  Amanda and Emily

After hearing about the Charles Marville exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, we were excited to go view the black and white French photography. While the collection features works from throughout Marville’s career, the curator focused on his documentation of the Haussmannization of Paris- the implementation of Baron Haussmann’s architectural and infrastructural plans to modernize the city-  from the 1850s into the early 1870s. But by walking through the rooms of photos, we found that Marville did much more than simply document the city’s modern transformation. While Haussmannization improved the city’s transportation, layout, and sanitation, it displaced much of the “Old Paris,” leaving poor city dwellers without homes and with overall feelings of disappointment and frustration. Through his work, Marville seems to pay homage to the older parts of the city while embracing the new version of Paris that we know today.

One of the hallmarks of Marville’s artistry is his innovative use of light. He beautifully renders this effect in his photograph, Sky Study, in which he makes the bright sky and delicate overhanging clouds his subject, providing the viewer with a reference point in the spire atop a domed building in the background. Within this work, where he captures the nuances of natural light, he conveys the message that while Paris may be a changing city, its people still live under the same sun and marvel at the same clouds. Although Parisian officials ordered the construction of a “new Paris,”  they could not demolish the city’s distinctive history and trademark spirit.

Sky Study can be viewed at –  http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/265131

While he communicates such sentiments in many of his works, Marville equally explores the cultural mores of the transforming city. As a representation of the social stratification, he photographed a series of lampposts placed on street corners throughout Paris. The lampposts were one of the later products of Haussmannization, intended to light the city for purposes of safety and comfort. What is interesting about the series is that at first glance, each lamp looks alike, but upon a closer look, each one has its own unique characteristics. We found out that the more ornate lampposts were placed in upscale neighborhoods and areas, while the plainer ones resided in the poorer neighborhoods. So, Marville’s documentation of the lampposts is actually symbolic of a microcosm of the widening gap between the social classes of Paris.

 Hotel de la Marine (lamppost) can be viewed at –http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/press/exh/3209/annonucement.html

It is ironic that most people today have the same attitude towards the current Paris that Marville had towards the one displaced during the 1850s. But while his nostalgia is for the city of his youth, the one in which his memories were rooted, ours is for the city that grew out of its destruction. Inevitably, all cities transform at a faster clip than that to which their people can comfortably adjust. Therefore, the Parisian citizens’ resilience in spite of the never-ending, merciless evolution of the city speaks to humans’ ability to adapt and flourish with the faith that out of the chaos of today will emerge a more promising tomorrow.