The passenger

oan-adnThe passenger (2015)

The word ‘surreal’ has been so thoroughly abused as to render it now nearly impotent of meaning.

I hear people use it all the time interchangeably where terms like ‘oneiric’, ‘transcendent’ or ‘fantastic’ might better serve.

To me this image is surreal. Yes: there’s an element of it that is oneiric, i.e. the way text you read in a dream shifts as you read it. Yes: it’s–in some small way–transcendent because upon seeing this I experienced an in rush of breath and for the briefest nano second my subject perceiving an object shattered; yes, it’s also fantasic in that the train and the nude woman staring–ostensibly at me via the conjured space-time magic of a camera lens.

The reason I suggest it’s surreal is it has a feel to it of your mind playing tricks on you. For example: many years ago on what was perhaps my second trip to MoMA, I was walking to Grand Central. Although it wasn’t late, it was already dark–the sort of weather where you can smell the promise of snow in the air and the wind makes you shrink into your own core heat.

There were very few people on the streets and I remember passing a restaurant with tinted windows that looked in on the type of establishment that you’d need reservations in order to be seated and served. I wasn’t even paying attention really but I could’ve sworn there was a woman in a beautiful evening gown sitting across a candlelit table from a man, who wasn’t a man so much as a sunflower dressed in a well-heeled suit. The image stopped me in my tracks and I actually took a step back craned my neck for a second look.

Of course, it had been a trick of light, reflection and imagination. Still though, the oddity of the scene I perceived has stuck with me. It still feels strangely more real to me than the reality.

It’s that feeling I mean to convey when I term this image surreal. I feel like if I look away and look back, I will see the less interesting reality. Yet, due to some strange magic, the initial moment of mistaken perception has been transformed from passing ephemerality into something permanent. Yes, exactly that and beautifully so.

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