At what point is a work just so cute as to induce nausea? No, really – like those photographs of babies sleeping in plants. I guess loads of people must like them because the artist has produced so much material with them they must be selling like plastic crosses at a revival meeting. But geez! It doesn’t often cross my mind (no pun intended) that I just created a work that has that effect, but once in a while I have to stop and ask myself.
People, actual living human beings that are not mannequins or dolls, rarely show up in my work. There are several reasons for that, beginning with I’m usually out wandering alone when I capture photographs. But it also bothers me that I might catch somebody in a shot, produce the work, and have them come back and accuse me of exploiting them without permission. Yeah, there’s probably some legalese that would belay that. And there’s certainly plenty of street photography including real people who happened to be walking by at the time. Yeah, also yeah, there’s likely something psychological about the connection between artist and subject being broken by the insertion of a living, breathing human being into the equation; the artist being more comfortable with a connection to inanimate objects than to human beings with their own free will. But let’s ignore that.
So, I avoid capturing people I haven’t talked to first, but sometimes the capture is just too perfect. This work was one of those times – the way the penguins and the child lined up … perfect. I’m satisfied with the work as it developed, if not elated (I actually made some changes between the time I wrote this blog and the time I posted it). The child is altered enough that their identity shouldn’t be obvious. What if the parents came back at me anyway?
So, I guess I should explain the shot.
This photograph was captured in Antarctica.
I happened to be there recently on a humanitarian effort due to an ice sheet breaking away while a pack of boy scouts were holding a jamboree on it. After assisting in their rescue, the team and I retired for a little rest and recreation at the Swedish Antarctic Research Center, which was visited by a cruise ship carrying a group of Kazakhs who had won the trip through participation in a radio station promotion. The Swedish scientists, who continue their research into the effects of temperature variance on human sexual response, took time out to coral a colony of penguins into glass enclosure for the enjoyment of the Kazakhs, especially the sweet Kazakh children, who cuddled right up against the glass and were rewarded by a serenade of Disney songs performed by the penguins themselves.
So, parents – if you are not a citizen of Kazakhstan who won a radio station contest to travel by cruise ship to the Swedish Antarctic Research Center where singing penguins performed Disney tunes, this is not your child. Chill.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.