By Maria Popova
We’re all about redefining perception by exploring new ways of looking at things normally taken for granted. And, apparently, so are you — some of our most popular content has been just in that vein. (Like this, this, this and that.) So today, we do exactly that: re-perceive.
Most of us secretly wish the world had remained as we saw it when we were kids — bright, colorful, full of simple shapes and yet full of wonder. What would happen if that childhood world came to life in our adult reality?
That’s exactly what Korean artist Yeondoo Jung explores in his photoseries Wonderland. He collected over 1,000 drawings from 5-to-7-year-old South Korean children, curated the few best suited for the project, then recreated the depicted scenes with live models, dramatic costumes and flamboyant colors.
The result: a stunning, visually and conceptually dazzling collection of surreal photography that leaves us dreamsome and a little sad at the same time, the eerie bittersweetness of an imagined reality we’ve long dismissed as unattainable.
Also, it makes us wanna do psychedelic drugs.
And speaking of the harsh clash between childhood dreams and adult reality, how about that all-important what-do-you-wanna-be-when-you-grow-up question? If we all ended up doing exactly what we answered at age 6, Capitalism and the entire Western civilization would have to depend on a dysfunctional army of astronauts, Yankees pitchers and Broadway starlets.
One answer we bet was quite uncommon: “phone sex operator.” Which makes us wonder about the persons behind the personas — who are the people who end up in this bastard child of the sex industry, the faceless strangers who inspire such blind and uninhibited intimacy? Are all of them really tall 36DD blondes?
In his new book, Phone Sex, photographer Phillip Toledano explores the complex human element behind the sexy voice through a crosssection of art and sociology that makes us reconsider the purely transactional nature of that industry.
“I’m 60 years old, have a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University, and married for 25 years. I have a son in his last years of college who lives at home. He’s a 4.0 with a double major in English Literature and Religion. Men call me for an infinity of reasons. Of course, they call to masturbate. I call it “Executive Stress Relief.” It’s not sex; it’s a cocktail of testosterone, fueled by addiction to pornography, loneliness, and the need to hear a woman’s voice. I make twice the money I made in the corporate world. I work from home, the money transfers into my bank account daily. I’m Scheherezade: If I don’t tell stories that fascinate the Pasha, he will kill me in the morning”
Read the fascinating interview with the artist at The Morning News and marvel at the gallery, complete with insight from the subjects ranging from the mundane to the unexpected to the utterly bizarre.
Just like the fundamental currency of the phone sex business, many of the relationships we form in life are with virtual strangers little pieces of whom we get to know through random glimpses, strangers we build up into idols and antagonists, heroes and villains, based on how we put those random little pieces together.
Take celebrity culture. Or politics.
Some of the greatest American idols have inspired tremendous reverence and unconditional empathy in us common folk. Which is why their deaths become a national tragedy we experience and grieve like the death of a close friend. In 1968, a train between New York and Washington carried one such national tragedy: Robert F. Kennedy’s coffin. That train also carried Look Magazine photographer Paul Fusco.
Originally assigned to shoot the funeral procession, Fusco soon realized that the greater ceremony took place along the tracks of the 8-hour ride: Americans of all walks of life saluting the fallen hero, some barefoot, some wearing their finest church clothes. The Fallen was born.
Fusco only had one shot at each scene and, unable to change his position or perspective throughout the entire ride, but he made the most of it in a way that revealed the pure patriotism lining those 229 miles.
Using color-intense Kodachrome film, the photographer captured what history books never could: the raw impact Kennedy had on the people, stripping away all the political pretense to unveil the deep-felt human connection.
See The Fallen in its entirety at New York Times Magazine, with a deeply moving voiceover from the photographer himself.
On a much lighter note, a much less artistically talented but no less experimentally brave guy takes on another kind of hero culture: movie heroes and superheroes. (Yep, we’re at it again.) D-list actor Andrew Goldenberg has taken to doing something so random and so bizarre that it’s simply brilliant: putting lyrics to movie theme songs.
Tux-clad and shakily on-key, he merges the worst of Broadway with the best of Comedy Central for a whole new level of spoof hilarity.
Remember our wildly popular Maps issue and that insanely artistic-looking NASA map of the moon? Well, the government’s space crusaders are back with more. The guys over at Environmental Graffiti bring us a collection of the 30 Most Incredible Abstract Images of Earth — we’re talking stuff better suited for the MoMA than the science classroom.
The collection represents the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me of the 400,000 images taken by NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite, hand-selected by NASA’s own scientists for an exhibition at the Library of Congress in 2000 — reassurance that at least some of our tax dollar is going to, um, the arts.
The images remind us of David Gallo’s stunning TED footage of those wondrous, color-shifting deep ocean creatures. Most of all, they remind us how amazing Earth is at its rawest, deepest core — and how overwhelming the sense of urgency about preserving it is.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Published July 22, 2008