There are times when the ordinary jumps out and transports the viewer into an unexpected, exaggerated reality. Sure Virtual Reality headsets or chemical intoxicants will get you there eventually. However, in both of those cases, you, the experiencer, most likely have prepped yourself for an altered visual experience. In such cases, your own expectations serve to prime the visual cortex for something unexpected. It is a bit like going to a comedy club for the food alone. No-one does it. You go expecting to be at least slightly amused, thus increasing your chances that you will find something funny. However, in the process, the chance for a true hyperreal moment just might be lost.
Pretty much all dictionaries prescribe two meanings to the word hyperreal.
1. extremely realistic in detail
2. exaggerated in comparison to reality
Negotiating these two meanings into some coherent visual combination has been of personal interest these past few years. During this time, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of hyperreal art the past decade or so. However, while these works tend to stress the absolute realism in the portrayal of subject-matter (definition #1), it is the second definition which this week’s photo both belongs to and challenges.
One aspect of visual culture which I have grown to love about Jeollanam-do is the ardent proliferation of adhoc banners, posters, and decals which still grace small towns throughout the countryside. Pieced together from sources of various mental and pixal-based resolution, they are a variable bo-day-chi-gay (trash soup) of signage. On this day in Namwon, I happened to be minding my own business at an intersection heading towards the nearest public toilet. However, at just that moment of malaise, the image above jumped into my field of vision. Upon second glance, it was all over. The creature adorning the door of a raw fish restaurant to my right had me in its grasp. It was as if I had no choice but to abandon my quest and attune myself to the vibes the two-dimensional fillet-to-be was exuding.
The fish above was caught in mid-flight. Free as a bird, he (grant me this presumption of gender, just this once) now gracefully joins his winged friends as he soars above the rocks below. A fish out of water you say? On the contrary, he begs us not to keep him down, to put him in a box of prescribed beliefs concerning authentic verses non-authentic fish behavior. If he had eyelids, I have no doubt indeed that he would offer a knowing wink. I dig his vibe. It was as if he was looking through me, imprinting a message onto my very soul.
At just that moment, the crosswalk lit up in a greenish glow, and I resumed my mission (not before quickly composing a shot with my Sigma DP3 Merrill of course). However, it was not until I had answered natures call that I head a deeper message whispered from the fish, still frozen in mid-air on the door across the road. This hyperreal design had done what few other local methods had been able. It, or rather, he, the fish, woke me up. Without warning, he hyperjumped my consciousness from one place to the unexpected other. He showed me that, like the Van Halen brothers before him, when all else fails, we might as well jump.
[Photo taken with my Sigma DP3 Merrill, which sports a 50mm f2.8 lens, which has a 75mm equivlant focal distance on this cameras APS-C Foven X3 sensor. No other camera continues to give me as many headaches, or “dear lord that’s gorgeous” moments as the Sigma. If you have a chance, find some good light and a Foven sensor, and prepare to be amazed.]
(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)