Frozen Distortion

“Slow motion not only reveals familiar aspects of movements, but discloses quite unknown aspects within them—aspects ‘which do not appear as the retarding of natural movements but have a curious gliding, floating character of their own.’” (117)

Although I took this picture this past summer, it stands out to me as exactly the kind of “dynamite split second” Benjamin is referencing in The Work of Art in the Age of Reproducibility (117). To me, looking at this photograph of “The Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park is extremely different than my experience of seeing “The Bean” in person, even though I am the one who took this picture. When I saw “The Bean” for the first time, I was so overwhelmed with its powers of distortion, that when I looked up at the metal ceiling, while standing underneath the structure, I failed to see anything other than my own distorted reflection and various blurs of color, representative of other people walking by. Even the tiniest of movements changed what the structure reflected, which amounted to a constantly changing image being painted against the ceiling every hundredth of a second.

I snapped a photo of my view from below, mostly in order to remember my visit to the park, but later I found viewing the picture to be extraordinarily interesting. The swirls of color I remember seeing where not at all pictured, but instead, multitudes of individuals stood reflected in “The Bean” – forever frozen wherever they happened to be standing at the exact moment in time I chose to take my picture. While I could not distinguish individuals in the reflection of “The Bean” in real time, my camera, “with all its resources for swooping and rising, disrupting and isolating, stretching or compressing a sequence, enlarging or reducing an object,” was capable of capturing a split second in which motion stood still and reflections were not just blurs of color, but real people (117). While it is difficult to distinguish facial features of the individuals because of their size in the photograph, I know that they actually exist. Without this photograph to remind me of this truth, I likely would have remembered my experience of looking into “The Bean” as seeing my own reflection amidst a swirl of color in motion and distortion at its finest.

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