Pictures from Wonderland
I Love Pictures, July 2007
By Veit Gorner
At the beginning of the nineteen-eighties, there was a discussion among social psychologists, sociologists, and media theoreticians concerning the phenomenon and effects of the “flood of images,” which was steadily rising on the basis of more and more television channels and a constantly increasing number of journals and magazines. No one had an inkling back then about the potentiation of this constantly available mountain of images, which was made imminent through the possibilities opened up by the internet and the digitalization of the visual world. The term ‘flood of images’ summons up the association of an anxiety that this deluge could lead to an inundation, in the worst case to the submergence of entire swathes of land in a previously stable world enjoying a steady pictorial reception. If these anxious souls of an earlier era were to see today’s towering masses of images, they would mourn a world drowned long ago. But nothing of the sort has happened; instead our perception has adjusted to the vast new proportions, and the human brain has exponentially expanded the speed at which it processes images. Today we can handle more visual information at the same time, orient ourselves more quickly, than people could fifty years ago. It is not the recipient, the viewer of pictures, who actually has a problem, but rather the producer, the creator of pictures. In view of these millions and millions of images, which merge into unabated noise how is it possible to gain the attention of a target audience? By being different!
April 4, 2006. An issue of the magazine Stern, picked up by chance in an airplane and idly perused, included a few pictures by the photographer, Tim Walker, who was thirty-five years old at the time. I was immediately fascinated. There was nothing to be found of the minimalist coolness, the tailored-to-everyone reality, or the trashy scenes with which fashion photography fights for our attention and manages only to bore us more and more. On the contrary, Tim Walker’s pictures stir profound memories in us, summon up fairy-tale worlds such as that of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. His cats don’t grin, but their coloured coats are not derived from this world either. And the luminous blue elephant in front of the wall of an enchanted Indian temple ushers us irresistibly into fantastical realms of dream. There haven’t been such lavishly staged and colour-drenched pictures for a long time now, perhaps ever since Cecil Beaton