Thanks to my friend, Anne, I got pointed at this at the website of Danny Santos: Shooting Strangers In Orchard Road. Santos photographed a lot of faces—a lot of people—along Orchard Road in Singapore. His work is lovely.
Browsing through Santos’ pictures, I was struck by a pair of ideas, spinning around together on the same axis.
One: There sure are a lot of us. A lot of people. We’re different in a lot of ways, similar in a lot of ways, and somehow we end up together. All these people—strangers, I presume—end up together in Singapore, moving through the same spaces, coming out of their own histories, their lives briefly chasing, briefly overlapping, briefly in contact. And now all their faces are together as colored lights stored in some server somewhere, staffed by more strangers, seen by more strangers, thought about and regarded and maybe remembered across oceans and islands by strangers. A camera is a form of travel, a shortcut across space and time, a tool for the transmission of a moment.
Two: People are beautiful.
Truth is, in writing this, I’ve also thought up concerns about the assumptions and presumptions, the worries and ignorance, of the people in these photos—people who may not have known why they were photographed, where their faces are now, or what may be done with them. I picture you, at your computer or with iPad in hand, regarding these strangers’ faces as the sky turns to night outside your window. I picture you, chuckling at this melodrama and gliding your mouse to click away from here. I picture a young intelligence analyst, installed in some glass-and-steel cubicle farm, downloading all these faces into a brilliant and stubborn computer, building a database, a new electronic Domesday Book, trying to capture all our faces. These faces bend in the curve of the analyst’s eye. They stare back, nobody saying anything, as the analyst renders a beautiful face into a list of identifying tags: #brown eyes, #curly hair, #freckled complexion.
Our likenesses are butterflies and the net is the net. Pin our faces down, put us under glass, and maybe our faces stay beautiful forever while we wither and die. Meanwhile the viewer clicks on through.
Music: “Electricityscape,” The Strokes