WordsManifest might not be part of the JUICE family anymore, but damn it, we loved his #NOSHOTS musings. Being an established street photog with a project aptly titled This is Kuala Lumpur in the works, we thought who better to rant about the reality of the people in magazines vis-à-vis the people in the streets than our former resident grumpy geriatric (reportedly, while now on greener pastures, he still yells at kids to get off his lawn).
I do this all the time: I take a picture of something, either on my camera or on my phone, and I then spend three times as much time editing the photo to look better than I did actually setting up and taking the shot. I tell myself I’m just being thorough, and trying to do justice to the object of my photography. I also do that with my writing – editing, re-editing and rewriting paragraphs and entire columns just to get things right.
This is not about that. I think.
I suppose we really have gotten caught up with the idea that the best of anything is also something that’s unattainable. The most beautiful people on the planet are who we think they are because of heavy Photoshopping and strategic surgery as much as genetics and a predisposition to smile appealingly whenever they’re looking at a camera. Places we remember fondly are encased in a thick soupy fog of nostalgia and spoon-fed preconceptions – nobody ever really talks about how the streets of Paris smell like stale cat piss, do they? Or how Seoul, pleasant though its autumns may be, is overrun with racists and restaurants that charge you a Myvi down payment for a lunch set? People can’t even enjoy a decent movie without something having to blow up – in slow motion – every 3 minutes or so.
Let’s keep it real. (Oh good God. I just typed that for an article in 2014.) It’s not that we shouldn’t celebrate the best we’ve accomplished as a society – the biggest, fastest, most beautiful whatevers in human culture – but why not celebrate the best of what’s really here? Rather than romantically holding on to a set of ideals that probably won’t exist outside of a social and aesthetic utopia, appreciate the highpoints of the world we can touch. You can still vote Paris best city in the world, but yeah, pick a Least Cat Piss-Scented Parisian Street too for your annual list. Pick a Best Looking Dude off the Street (Who Is Not John Hafiz, Sex God of the Ages) for your year-end cover. Not every picture you (okay, I) take needs to be rendered in hyper-realistic HDR to make it look less plausible than the final three levels of Bioshock Infinite. The more we indulge ourselves in layering a set of fantasies over the real world like some sort of augmented reality beer goggles, the less bummed out we’ll be when those fantasies simply stop working. Either we train ourselves to live without the beer goggles, or we end up fiending for a stronger opiate when our current fix loses its edge.
There’s a lot out there for us to marvel at; things that for the lack of attention and care we pay to them might not be around for much longer. The places, people, customs and social mores we take for granted or ignore completely just because they’re not impeccably presented in IMAX 3D with full cross-platform mobile OS intercompatibility and a side order of flawless sex appeal – those are things that could enrich our lives and give us a more grounded sense of purpose. If you’re bored with reality, consider the bleak, depressing alternative: will you only be able to live with fantasy and facsimile?
WordsManifest takes photos, writes, makes music, and is The Internet. And is old. His latest project is This Is Kuala Lumpur, a photo journal of life in KL: