Old Glory

Sequence:

1. In the Library of Congress’s George Grantham Bain Collection at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ggb2004009750/, this.

2. I photoshop it for contrast and tonal balance.

3. I begin abstracting from the content, cropping some parts of the image that represent symbols too obvious to be interesting (iron bars, fallen leaves) and adjusting the color.

4. I crop and zoom.

And applied to an image about a hundred years old, computer technology has recovered an antique irony arising from the juxtaposition of the words “glory” and “old.” The computer has processed the image in historiographic mode. Free for the first time in a century to read the image as a text, we have placed ourselves once again under the interpretive control of Looking Backward or Maggie: A Girl of the Streets or Les Misérables. But in the interim between that moralized reading from the past and the recovered moralized reading of the present, there was a brief interim in step 3 when the picture wasn’t an allegory but only a picture.

And about that interim the immoral question has to be asked: wasn’t it beautiful?

At http://theartpart.jonathanmorse.net/portrait-ca-1910-2014/ I write about another image of this man and this dog.

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