It’s all about the image; what you see is what you see –
10 January 2019

Explanatory notes – Please click HERE to see the full portfolio of ‘Telescreen’ Pictures. NB. Compression for Internet display occasionally creates stroboscopic effects – that do not appear in the printed photographs.

“Like any other communicable characteristic of our time, visual expression has exponentially splintered into billions of alternative realities and wildly contradictory memes. Each reality is different and attracts followers and acolytes; suggesting that with everyone having their own ‘currency’ of perception, expression – and beliefs, then authenticity and ‘truth’ have become functions of crowd dynamics, – commodified – & without a fixed universal definition.

Reality has become a ‘market’ – dynamic, mercurial & with metaphorical ‘prices’ – which change for each story, context or idea in real time, according to their visibility and popularity in the competitive ebb and flow of Darwinian survival in the Internet’s information loop.” (FakePhony- Reality, 2016 / 2022 edit.)

The ‘Telescreen’ pictures are derived from moving images scenes found on the Internet or Television, then rephotographed (from a screen) with a large format camera and transparency film. Pictorial conventions provide structure. The process drives the look.

Influenced by Kissinger’s ‘constructive ambiguity’, Surkov’s mind games and Lee Atwater’s [political] mantra that “perception is reality” the camera crystallises my reactions to what feels like a Möbius world – where concentration and distraction have become the same thing.

Post Thucydides (‘Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them.‘), McLuhan, Boorstin, Baudrillard, Neal Gabler and of course Trump – it seems that Debord’s ‘Spectacle’ has metamorphosed into being and ‘reality’ has become fully subservient to representation. And ‘Hyperderealistaion’ or ‘Correlative Dissonance’ – (the loss of capacity to see the connection between the immediate & the future) – are now perhaps the foundations or explainers of the exponential reality that remains.

Disclaimer: All characters and events are entirely fictitious and any similarity to real places or people, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended. None of what you see really happened.

Picture prep / writing process & Gallery pictures:

Clara – RePhotograph 112cm x 145 cm approx
Clara / detail -close up
It’s easy to see things clearly at the beginning, but harder at the end. Diptych, RePhotoGraphs 175cm x 112cm approx (text below)
Work in progress July 2022 to add a story to the Right Hand image in the Elvis Diptych
Nobody can hide, but everything is under control – Diptych, RePhotographs, each 145cm x 112cm approx
Nobody can hide, but everything is under control – Diptych – with additional work, writing / a story – text below

L = Cl * A * .5 * r * V^2  – Diptych, RePhotographs / 112cm x 80cm approx (text / story below)

Writing – The stories written on the photographs.

L = Cl * A * .5 * r * V^2 

The original Plan was to print this picture in bigger size -. But even after scaling back, the end of the roll came to soon. The plane ran out of runway. And crashed – if you will. Which got me thinking about a Bruegel painting I like – Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.  

Which is about Icarus falling incongruously from a sixteenth Century sky. While the lookout on a fine looking ship passing by, a ploughman, a fisherman, the other feller  and a shepherd remain seemingly oblivious. Not only to the discordant singing of unseen gulls – which is as I  would expect. But also to the sight and splash of Icarus & his drowning plight. Which I would not . So. Are they all knowingly unaware – numbly insouciant?? (You know the type.) Or lost in innocent tunnel visioned concentration? 

The picture’s ethereal depth draws me in, it’s eerie – as if the painting holds transportive powers that actually take me backwards in time and place – to the hillside overlooking the sea. That’s why I like Bruegel 

 I believe I can fly. 

I think Nathan Bryce would agree. We might drink a while & compare stories of suspended disbelief. And the perils of over ambition in an indifferent and corrupt world.  

I expect he could help me understand aerodynamics too. Speed is of the essence. L= Lift, P = Air Density, V = Velocity, Cl = Coefficient of Lift, S = Wing Surface Area. There – .

Nobody can hide, but everything is under control.   

He wanted a quick run down the coast. It had to be hookey – right? Who pays twice the regular rate, in cash, upfront & low season? There was the promise of a decent bonus too – to be paid back at the dock, “when we’re all nice & dry”. I needed the money; what can I say.   

He knew his stuff. About me, my boat, the radar, draft, range – and the water, the banks & the estuary, the weather & the tides. About the rip that plays the near the inlet he was interested in. I think he sensed – he knew – I would want to know more. Cross the rubicon if you will; catch another glimpse of a life less ordinary. He knew my past I think.  

He was a pro’, with an instantly recognizable but Anonymous face. His manner was aimless, but focused; calculated. He was uncategorisable. A dark pea coat, pale skin, with an overall tone of slate. I figured him as a smuggler – or security services: Understated; aloof. I offered my hand to shake his – he didn’t respond.   

Later, when I was trying to describe him to the reporters – I drew a blank; he was abstract; I couldn’t remember his eyes; he had shapeshifted into a Sasnal like figure. Or someone you memory tries to save – as they slip beneath the surface of a vanishing dream. He savoured occasional cigarettes and of course the coffee, which was a rich, dark roast, he told me he liked drinking from Styrofoams. I think that’s as close as I got to an insight about his motives.   

The run to the inlet was smooth enough; we left just before sunrise & chased the tide at about two thirds throttle over an easy dawn swell that was so benign we drank some more of the coffee on the way.   

It was a comfortable three quarter hour haul; probably forty miles all told. I figured the return could be more entertaining; five minutes up from the horizon & the sun was already lost in the weather that was closing in. I had spare waterproofs stowed. Just in case.   

Too late, I saw the helicopter. The noise from the boat’s engines muting everything else. In an instant it’s right on top of us & I stare at the sound track – the wumpfh, wumpfh, wumpfh, wumpfh whumpfh of the rotors’ downdraft, that’s forcing me onto the deck. I keep my speed, for a second or two, racing through the options.  

I can see a guy hanging out of the open slide doorway – with what looks like a gun; then I realise it’s a camera. Five minutes ago I was drinking hot coffee out of a Styrofoam. Now I’m in a movie(?). Or on TV. Or in a DEA bust; but there’s no coastguard in sight, no sirens & nothing on the radar. So I decide the photographer is a paparazzi. Ron Galella in a Huey. (Poor Jackie.) 

Reality bites; it’s a set up.  

On the return leg, slower, rain sheeting horizontally, I ask him what was it all for? 

“You’ve been appropriated. Because you were – you are – frameable and accessible. That’s my job, to facilitate signals.”  

 He makes parentheses with his fingers: “[Operations] to deter every real process by its operational double”. He thinks for a moment, takes a sip of still steaming coffee & with a well practiced routine says: “Attention spans have slipped – because of hyper derealisation & correlative dissonance; so it’s all about image; what you see is what you see –.”  

There’s a lot happening – but none of it a surprise. The news anchor cuts to Emily at the dockside and the segment jumps to footage with her voiceover. It starts fairly static – like a Yasujiro Ozu movie. But pretty soon, fades to hand held & shaky; the colour grading is kinda’ Prussia blue – to help with the Rashomon.Then aerial tilt shots from the chopper, pushing & pulling; with some close ups of me – the sunglasses emphasise I’m in control.   

We’re jump cutting all over the place – it’s like a straight to Netflix movie trailer on Netflix. The continuity is good, we didn’t mess up; but the narrative is non linear; or disrupted, which is the latest thing for TV news. It’s about the ratings I guess – His spiel continues, “Chaotic and fast audiovisuals increase Attentional Scope but decrease conscious processing”. It’s such a mish mash that even I can’t keep up. And I was there, remember? It only makes sense if you were not there. 

It’s getting dark; I lose track of my bearings & we’re back at the dock. Lights & TV satellite dishes everywhere. And with that he was gone – an envelope on the dash inside a Ziploc freezer bag & a few stray Styrofoams the only evidence he was ever there.   

There’s a letter with the money. “Everything you imagine is real – but it’s easier to believe if it doesn’t make sense. See, all of those screens bring the viewers into clearer focus. It’s not about information or knowledge. Just sequencing of ‘Infinite search & plural truth’. Nobody can hide, but everything is under control.” 


That night, back home, I pause for a moment in the flickering icy blue light. The news anchor smiles reassuringly.  

“And now, the weather”.  

All characters and events depicted in the pictures are fictitious and any similarity to real places or people, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended.  

It’s easy to see things clearly at the beginning, but harder at the end.

The DJ fades the chorus into the background – “CBS FM –…that’s Elvis; seven minutes to six o’clock here at Golden One O One, it’s seventy nine degrees and cloudy and showers…and showers tomorrow also and police in Memphis Tennessee say Elvis Presley died this afternoon at Baptist Hospital, he was forty two years old. Dee-tails coming up at six o’clock; CBS FM and Elvis Presley John from Yonkers just called a second ago and he passed on his regrets…as we all…uhhh…we all feel the same way today don’t we…the King of Rock & Roll, who would ever think that Elvis Presley.. he doesn’t die…” (Broadcast Grief. The medium is the message.)

Like Jay Gatsby, we know how this story ends right from the get go.

It’s easy to see at the beginning – their workaday backgrounds, army service, obsessive tragic love, wealth, infamy – those smiles.. But harder at the end – That there’s a point where the projector belt snaps, the film reel stutters to a halt and the projector’s bulb immolates the 4th wall, leaving the illusion empty & a sunburn welt on your psyche. But not before it burns bright & beautiful; indigo, orange & crazy, like an old valve TV set thrown on a roaring bonfire – first exposing, then sacrificing itself & saturating your memory as revenge. But how did he – did we – get to here?

This version of a familiar parable is set in between times – in the smudge of seventies Americana –a grainy & ever underexposed crimson, or brown place. In hindsight, the warnings are there, of glaring rock & roll excess sliding to a natural tabloid conclusion. Like IBM mainframes with big spools of magnetic tape snapping & juddering back and forth, clockwise then anticlockwise, dizzied & disorientated – as if the machines themselves, their copper wound intestines – were being electrocuted into an aporic convulsion.

He wonders about this, in quiet conversations with the bathroom mirror, steam slowly fogging the glass. (He leaves it be. Less really is more sometimes.) He asks, how did he become a fuzzy reflection – of everyone else’s expectation? Reversed in real life too. Lost somewhere, like a weekend.

What he’s really longing for is 33 1/3 rpm / Long Play, like a Cadillac on Quaaludes. All deep red velvet & electric everything inside. Hydraulic everything outside. Even the Mirrors are tinted. To insulate you. Or calm you against the loneliness of the aircon. A power-steered padded cell, with a Memorex 8 Track. And When the ignition fires, there’s a silence to the engine’s motion; like the quietness after the stylus hits an LP, before the first track begins. A gliding sound that’s all of its own; tranquility base. The warm fuzz of static’s tease and the anticipation of …satisfaction. He thinks about a movie. I wonder if Elvis saw Star Wars? A crosswalk strobing at low intensity brings him back with a shiver. The hairs on his forearms prickle in the dry cool breeze. Like an airport at three am. Deserted, almost. A nowhere place en route to somewhere. Dislocated, but peaceful. Controled. A deluxe colour graded lifestyle, that breathes reassurance, like a glossy magazine. Where ‘Nothing disturbs him’. Not even the tannoy’s eerie doorbell calling his flight. Ping, pang, …paaaang. He tunes the radio, WDIA 1070 AM, Drivetime…“Do you feel like I do…. Peached up, peached pale, Never fails…” – Flicks the dial again and catches His own song. A Plural moment. He sings along, in its minor key – the radio fades into the speakers inside his head – to the PA system of that day, the actual gig. He lives a diegetically fluid world, without a cinematic switch; where he can hear the same song as thousands of other people are listening to – in silence – & the radio or tv switched off.

The denouement, is a ‘singular moment’: an incongruous collision between an everyday banality & a happening of exponentially greater curiosity & shock, that elevates the otherwise forgettable into a moment of unique immutable mimetic – precisely because of its insignificance. ‘Singularities’ only attain their rare supernova God Particle mass, against a media mise-en-scène, broadcast on radio & TV, possibly live (OJ take a bow) – and likely Involving fame & death, or some other paradigm societal shift. JFK, Neil Armstrong, Berlin ’89, Diana & 9/11 spring to mind. And Elvis. My singular moment with ‘The King’ – was somewhere on the road, driving with my Dad to a summer holiday in Wales. August ‘77, new car, a Datsun, new car smell. No air con, but “very good on petrol”. A Wednesday. I’m thirteen. Somehow I had missed the event until that afternoon. The Sex Pistols demoted – ‘Way Down’ promoted – David Hamilton, 247 AM, Radio 1.

There are more of these moments in the USA. Probably because there are more TV’s. Which were made for the innocent, especially the CRT type. And of course, there are more people, so more ‘Network Effect’ at the vending machine & water cooler at work the next day. “Did you see… we all feel the same way today don’t we.” (No ? required.) And Elvis was an Instant Resurrection, so much quicker than Jesus – broadcast the same day, pixelated & sound tracked, probably to ‘Hound Dog’ – his biggest hit, 11 weeks at No. 1. Or perhaps Jailhouse Rock.

He pads down the stairs to the kitchen, undecided. Maybe some chow. Auto pilot engaged, he nudges the eye mask onto his forehead. As he catches the fridge’s door handle, he notices again that the carpet is beginning to show train tracks. He pulls against the seal – bottles clink in the door’s shelves as it opens. The light hovers & then spills across the floor. He pauses to savor the chill draft & just as his hand reaches a juice, the thermostat kicks in & the compressor jolts, lethargically, which breaks his reverie. He drinks from the carton, listening to the relaxed steady beat of the electric cicadas whirring inside. The sweetness & slate cold in his throat make his eyelids heavy and the blood rush in his ears, he can hear this a the submarine’s descent begins.

What does Elvis mean? Rock’n’Roll? The creeping rust of fame? Junk food? Maybe that was a link to a simpler time. Being cared for. Chicken fried steaks and toasted peanut butter & banana sandwiches sautéed in butter. (Gatsby liked cold fried chicken & ale from the fridge.) Comfort, to assuage the shuddering pain of divorce from their own identities? They were alike in their naivety too & Gatsby’s fictionality seems insignificant compared to his, being too early for TV – the final arbiter of reality, but still another lifetime away. Likewise, I guess, Elvis & the Internet, a place I feel he would have liked – a Mobius world where concentration & distraction have become the same thing.

Maybe fame is like jet lag; how it hits you. Today suspended & tomorrow excluded. The solace of its gentle emptiness & the pull – the lure – of instant, overwhelming gravity. Its Polaroid hue, somehow disjointing the alignment of things, like a silk screen off its register a touch, so you can see the rainbow at the edges.

Years later, Elvis’s cook, Mary Jenkins was showing us his authentic recipes on Letterman. The TV machine grinding out the TV myth, coast to coast at bedtime.


Reading list includes:

Previous research, includes:
The Pictures generation – The Metropolitan Museum of Art

TV Shots – Harry Gruyeart

Unknown Quantity – Paul Virilio

Screens of Power – Timothy W Luke

Information Please – Mark Poster

The Postmodern Adventure – Douglas Kellner, Steven Best

Photographien / Photographs 1977-1993 – Richard Prince – Richard Prince, Whitney Museum of American Art – Lisa Philips

Richard Prince, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – Nancy Spector, Jack Bankowsky

Collected Writings – Richard Prince

The Photograph as Contemporary Art – Charlotte Cotton

Immediate family – Sally Mann

Intersection – Slavomir Zulawinski

Panorama, Gerhard Richter, Tate – Mark Godfrey, Nicholas Serota

Degrees – MagnumAdvanced Photography – Langford

Understanding Media – Marshall McLuhan

The Informers, Less than Zero, Glamorama – Bret Easton Ellis